In January this year India began vaccinating citizens against COVID-19. While the country continues to see thousands of fresh cases on a daily basis, the Health Ministry's website indicates that more than 3.71 crore vaccine doses have been administered till Thursday morning. There had been a healthy dose of skepticism in the early days, with many questions being raised about the lack of third phase data for Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. Interestingly however, it is the Serum Institute manufactured AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine that is under the scanner.
BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy on Thursday questioned the death of several COVID-19 vaccine beneficiaries, contending that almost every one of these individuals had taken Covishield.
"Of the 71 persons who were vaccinated and died, media reported that 70 had been injected with Oxford AZ vaccine produced by Serum ltd as Covishield. Niti Aayog had promised give a report but have not. So I am asking Parliamentay Health Standing Committee to summon him (sic)," tweeted the BJP leader.
As the World Health Organisation reminds on its website, there is no such thing as a "perfect" vaccine which protects everyone who receives it, and is entirely safe for everyone. Over the last two months, many in India have reported adverse effects after getting inoculated - ranging from minor hindrances to hospitalisation and even death.
There is however no official data on the exact number of Adverse events following immunization (AEFI) that have occurred in India. On February 26, the government had revealed that a total of 51 people had been hospitalized till date. Of these 27 people were discharged after treatment, while twenty-three persons died and one person had been under treatment at the time.
"Total 46 deaths have been recorded till date. These comprise 0.0004% of the total COVID19 vaccinations. Of the 46, 23 persons died in the hospital while 23 deaths are recorded outside the hospital," the PIB press note had said.
The government however had at the time said that none of the severe cases of AEFI could be attributed to the vaccines so far.