- Sotic Biswas
- BBC correspondent in India
Three weeks after he was fully vaccinated against the Coronavirus, a journalist specializing in scientific affairs in Delhi developed a high fever, sore throat and a feeling of fatigue all over his body. On April 22, 58-year-old journalist Pallava Bagla was found infected with the Coronavirus.
After four days, the results of an imaging of his lungs showed that their color began to turn white, and this is a sign of infection with the virus.
Eight days after the first symptom appeared and he still had a fever, he was taken to hospital.
At the “All India” Institute of Medical Sciences, he underwent blood tests and started taking steroids because he suffers from diabetes, and his blood sugar level has risen, but fortunately for him, his oxygen levels have never dropped dangerously.
Before leaving the hospital, doctors showed him a picture of the lungs of a patient of his age, who had also contracted Covid 19 and had diabetes, but had not received the vaccine, and the image of his lungs was compared to that of this patient’s lung.
“The difference between the two pictures was clear. Doctors told me that had I not been vaccinated, I might have ended up in the intensive care unit and needing a ventilator,” Bagla says. “The timely complete vaccination saved my life.”
Although India has only fully vaccinated only 3 percent of its total population of 1.3 billion, post-vaccination virus cases (people who contracted the infection two weeks after being fully vaccinated) appear to be on the rise.
Health workers, doctors, nurses and workers in hospitals and clinics, bear the brunt of such cases of infection so far.
Baglas case seemed to be an exception to the rule, so scientists took swabs from his nose and throat to decipher the genetic code of the virus that had infected him.
The goal was to find answers to a question that still baffles scientists: Do our current vaccines – two doses in the case of India – adequately protect us from the new strains that are more susceptible to transmission of the Coronavirus?
There is no doubt that Corona virus vaccines are indisputably effective, although they do not prevent infection, but they protect people from severe diseases and death from the most dangerous strains of the virus.
So an “infection that defeats the vaccine” is not farfetched.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of April 26, 9,045 people had been infected out of the 95 million people who received the full vaccine in the United States.
835 people (9 percent) were hospitalized and 132 (one percent) died.
A third of these hospitalized patients and 15 percent of the deaths had no symptoms or symptoms unrelated to COVID-19.
Due to the lack of data, the evidence in India remains incomplete.
There are reports of a sudden increase in the number of infections, with a large number of health care workers infected after full vaccination, and even a small number of deaths.
But it is not clear whether infection was the direct cause of these deaths or not.
According to official figures, 2 to 4 people out of every 10,000 people who received the vaccine were infected with Corona infection. But the data appears to be incomplete. For three months, those taking the test were not asked whether they had been vaccinated or not. Evidence from hospitals varies.
Vincent Rajkumar, a professor at the Mayo Clinic in the United States, says he spoke to two major state-run hospitals in Tamil Nadu in southern India and found that a “very small percentage” of their vaccinated workers had been infected.
“Only a limited number of them recovered quickly,” he said.
On the other hand, 60 percent of doctors in the intensive care unit at Luk Nayak Jai Prakash Naraya Hospital, the largest hospital in Delhi to care for Covid patients, became infected after receiving the full vaccination, but there was no need to admit any of them to the hospital, according to Dr. Farah. Hussein, specialist in the intensive care department.
She said, “Some of the family members of those who were infected became ill and needed to be hospitalized.”
However, a study at another hospital in Delhi found that 15 of 113 health workers who were vaccinated became infected two weeks after receiving the second dose.
Fourteen cases were mild, and only one required hospitalization.
“We are seeing a lot of infections after vaccination among medical workers, but most of them are mild, as vaccines prevent severe infections,” says Anoub Misra, a diabetes specialist and one of the study’s authors.
A recent study was conducted on swabs taken from 6 fully vaccinated healthcare workers who experienced sudden infection in Kerala.
Vinod Scarya, a prominent geneticist and one of the study’s authors, said that two of the patients had had some kind of mutations that bypassed the body’s immunity, but none had developed severe disease.
Scientists say India needs more data to verify the spread of such infections among the general population and learn more about how vaccines work.
Shahid Jamil, a virologist, says: “The question that people ask a lot now is what is the possibility of a large number of people who have received the vaccine completely infected with the disease again.”
He explains, “Such news circulating among people caused a lot of anxiety among people who wanted to get the vaccine.”
The biggest concern is that daily vaccination rates in India are declining and it seems that herd immunity remains elusive. (Herd immunity usually occurs when a large portion of the community becomes immune to disease through vaccination or through the mass spread of the disease.) And the decline in the number of people who want to get the vaccine may make matters worse.
Scientists say that the second, lethal and uncontrollable second wave in India will facilitate the mutation of the virus, with the possibility of overcoming the most immune infectious strains provided by vaccines.
Knowing the genetic code of virus mutations will remain essential in facing future waves of infection.
The bottom line is that vaccines, despite their varying degrees of effectiveness, protect against severe diseases and the need for hospitalization, according to the opinion of scientists.
However, given the possibility of the vaccinated people being fully vaccinated, and infecting others, restrictions imposed to fight the virus, such as wearing masks, crowds and workplaces that lack ventilation for a long time, should not be eased.
For example, wearing two masks, similar to what the Indian state of Kerala did, should be mandatory.
Also, public health guidelines, which have been largely vague so far, must be accurate, for example, by including explanations about how people who have been fully vaccinated can meet freely in enclosed spaces such as homes and in the workplace.
“People should know that vaccines work, but that does not mean that you do not take precautions and become apathetic, you must remain very, very careful,” Bagla says.