Benefits of COVID vaccine outweigh risks, say experts

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The benefits of COVID-19 vaccine outweigh its known adverse reactions, and the recent reports on Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) should not discourage anyone from taking the shots, doctors said.

The suggestion comes after the Union Health Ministry in its response in the Lok Sabha recently said that as of January 30, 2022, a total of 70,102 cases (Covishield – 63,315 , Covaxin – 6,757 and Sputnik – 30) of AEFI and 1,013 cases of death (Covishield – 921, Covaxin – 92, and Sputnik ‘Nil’) were reported.

Vaccination is the safest way to prevent severe COVID-19 infection, said Dr. Chandrasekhar Singha, Paediatric Critical Care. He added that adverse events following vaccination could be a mild reaction like mild fever, body ache, headache. Reports of adverse events following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem. “Vaccinated patients may die because of associated health related problems (associated lung problem, heart problem which was undiagnosed),” he added.

Responding to a question on AEFI, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Bharati Pawar said that the Centre was providing operational guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination, guidance on classification, prevention, reporting and management aspect of AEFI. She added that frequent communication to the States and the Union Territories in the form of letters, advisories have been issued to improve reporting of minor, severe and serious AEFI. There is no recommendation to make reporting of AEFIs mandatory for healthcare service providers, the Centre told Parliament.

The Minister added that cases of AEFI were monitored through a well-structured and robust surveillance system in India.

Dr. H.K Mahajan, HOD Anaesthesia, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre added this is a very generic data issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and there is nothing to be worried about.

“Benefits of the COVID vaccine outweigh the harm and risk. In India it is the passive surveillance to monitor the adverse events following immunisation. It need not be mandatory to report these adverse events. The national adverse events committee issues guidelines and occurrence of the adverse events and that is not enough. Each death should have a medical audit and root cause analysis and curative and preventive action to minimise the adverse events,’’ he said.

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