- Infection occurring in fully vaccinated people are breakthrough cases
- No vaccine is 100% effective and so continue to follow Covid norms: Experts
- Breakthrough infections are uncommon and milder: Experts
New Delhi: Recently a case of the 26-year-old Mumbai doctor testing positive thrice in 13 months was reported. Out of the three times, she tested positive for Covid twice after taking both doses of a vaccine. While vaccines are a critical tool to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, there are cases of people getting Covid infection days after getting fully vaccinated are being reported from across the globe. These are called the breakthrough infections as the virus broke through the protective barrier provided by the vaccine, as per the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC), USA. NDTV spoke with Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, public policy and health systems expert and Dr. Shishir Pandey, Assistant Professor, Department of medicine, Sharda Hospital to learn about Covid vaccine breakthrough infection and ways to prevent it.
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Vaccine breakthrough infections are expected as no vaccines are 100 per cent effective in preventing the illness among vaccinated people, said Dr Lahariya. He said,
There are always a small number of people who still get sick even after getting vaccinated against a disease. In case of COVID-19, health agencies define vaccine breakthrough infection as one in which a nasal swab can detect the coronavirus protein more than two weeks after a person has completed the full recommended doses of an authorized Covid vaccine.
How Common Is Covid Infection Among Fully Vaccinated People?
According to Dr Pandey, breakthrough infections in people vaccinated against Covid are very rare as of now. He added that breakthrough infections are more likely to happen among healthcare workers who are in frequent contact with infected patients. For instance, a study carried out by Post Graduate Institute of Medical Science and Research (PGIMSR), Chandigarh and published in The New England Journal of Medicine in June 2021 followed over 12,200 healthcare workers out of whom over 3,650 healthcare workers were fully vaccinated of whom only 72 people got the infected with Covid after about 20 days of getting the second dose.
Dr Lahariya highlighted that apart from exposure to higher viral load, other causes of breakthrough infections include vaccines triggering a less robust immune response among people. He said that the chances of a breakthrough infection get higher with increasing age. Being immunocompromised or having comorbidities like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, lung diseases and cancer increase the chances of breakthrough infections, Dr Lahariya stressed. He also said that the new variants like Delta and Delta Plus variants that are more contagious can also cause breakthrough infections.
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Symptoms Of Breakthrough Infections Are Milder
Vaccine breakthrough infections are usually mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic, said Dr Pandey. The symptoms in such cases are similar to mild Covid that include fever, cough, body ache and can be mostly managed without hospitalisation, he said adding that a breakthrough infection usually do not lead to severe illeness.
According to the experts, in order to avoid getting breakthrough infections, following COVID-19 preventive measures like wearing masks in public, maintaining social distance and washing hands frequently is crucial even after getting fully vaccinated. Dr Lahayriya emphasised that taking vaccine is critical as it can lower the impact of the virus on the body and the benefits of vaccination outweigh the side effects and risks.
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.