National AEFI Committee confirms first death due to COVID vaccine in India

A day after a media report claimed to cite government data that more than 26,000 cases of Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) and 488 deaths linked to COVID-19 vaccination have been recorded between January 16 and June 7 this year, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has responded on Tuesday.

The Health Ministry’s reaction has come on a day when it was informed by the government that a panel looking into COVID-19 vaccine side effects has confirmed the first death due to anaphylaxis following vaccination.

As per the National AEFI Committee, a 68-year-old man passed away due to anaphylaxis or severe allergic reaction following the COVID-19 vaccination on March 8, 2021.

The Health Ministry today said any death or hospitalisation that happens post-vaccination cannot be automatically linked to vaccination.

The ministry said in its response to the media report that causality assessments assist in studying whether the “Adverse Event Following Immunization” was caused directly by the vaccine. Further, such studies are done at both state and national level for the investigated cases.

“There have been some media reports suggesting an increase in the cases of severe AEFI which have also resulted in ‘succumbing of patients’ post-vaccination. As per the media reports, 488 deaths following vaccination are linked to post-COVID-19 vaccination complications during 16th Jan 2021 and 7th June 2021 period where the total vaccination coverage was 23.5 crore.

“It is clarified that these reports are based on an incomplete and limited understanding of the matter at hand. It may be noted that the term ‘succumbed’ insinuates causality, i.e. the deaths were caused due to vaccination.

“The number of deaths reported following COVID-19 vaccination in the country is only 0.0002% of 23.5 crore doses administered, which is within the expected death rates in a population. In a population, deaths occur at a certain rate. The crude death rate in 2017 as per SRS data is 6.3 per 1000 persons annually (SRS, Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India),” the ministry statement read.

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