Breakthrough Infections: Can You Get Infected Post the Vaccine?
How many people tested positive for infection after the first and second doses of Covaxin and Covishield?
On Wednesday, 21 April, the Union Health Ministry revealed the data on breakthrough infections post vaccinations in India for the first time ever.
Effectively answering the questions - can you test positive after the first and second dose - they revealed the data for both Covaxin and Covishield during their press conference.
“Two to four per 10,000 breakthrough infections of COVID-19 have happened after people received the vaccine. This is a very, very low number, nothing to panic about.”Balram Bhargava, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)
As per their data, 1.1 crore Indians have been vaccinated by Covaxin while 11.6 are from Covishield. Out of these, 0.04 per cent of those vaccinated by the first dose of Covaxin tested positive, and 0.04 per cent after the second dose.
For Covishield, the numbers are even lower: 0.03 per cent tested positive for infection after the first dose and 0.03 per cent after the second dose.
The data on the severity of infection was not yet shared.
What Do These Numbers Mean?
The government maintained that these numbers indicate the safety of the vaccine and urged more people to get their jabs and prevent further spikes in infections.
Dr Bhargava indicated that the numbers could be even lower as these ones include healthcare workers who got the shots and who are exposed to infection at a higher rate than others.
In an earlier FIT interview, virologist Dr Shahid Jameel added,
“Vaccines do not prevent against infection they prevent against disease. This means vaccines protect against severe disease and death but you can still be infected and transmit the virus to others. So you MUST wear a mask even after being vaccinated.”Dr Shahid Jameel
He added that “Even with 1 dose there are studies that say you are offered limited protection against severe disease.” This seems to be proven by the low level of infections post the first dose for both vaccines.
There needs to be clear public health communication on three points:
- Vaccines are not a magic bullet - they are one tool to fight the pandemic, along with masking, hand washing and distancing
- Vaccines are safe and protect against severe disease and death
- You need to mask and observe COVID protocols post-vaccination
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