India has administered more than 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines since it launched its vaccination programme in January 2021.
Of these, more than 89,000 resulted in AEFIs, or adverse events following immunisation, according to a response from the health ministry to a Right to Information query filed by Scroll.in. These events can range from minor complications, such as fever and localised swelling, to anaphylaxis, and even death.
The figure represents 0.004% of the vaccine doses India has administered. This is strikingly low compared to figures from other countries. Argentina has reported AEFIs in 0.06% of vaccinations, 15 times higher than India. Canada, Brazil and Colombia’s AEFI rate is 0.05%, more than 12 times higher.
Dr Jacob Puliyel, a former member of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, noted that these low numbers are likely a result of “under-reporting” of these cases. It is unlikely, he said, that “the Indian population is immune to adverse effects of vaccines”.
For Common Ground, Tabassum Barnagarwala investigates India’s failure to record and investigate adverse events. She finds that families have struggled for information and support as loved ones have suffered. According to the RTI response, 1,148 lost their lives as a result of AEFIs. You can read the story here.