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Two health officials test positive after vaccination; urge govt to delay second dose

PUNE Dr Ashish Bharti, chief of the health department at the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), along with Dr Subhash Salunke (73), advisor to the Maharashtra government on Covid-19, have been infected with the Sar-Cov-2 virus after taking the vaccine dose
By Namrata Devikar and Yogesh Joshi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 18, 2021 09:33 PM IST

PUNE Dr Ashish Bharti, chief of the health department at the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), along with Dr Subhash Salunke (73), advisor to the Maharashtra government on Covid-19, have been infected with the Sar-Cov-2 virus after taking the vaccine dose.

While Bharti tested positive four days after he took the first dose, Salunke contracted the virus on March 15, almost three weeks (February 23) after he was administered a second dose of Covishield, an Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured in India by Serum Institute of India (SII).

Salunke has now written to the state and central governments requesting them to delay the second dose of the vaccine. He has urged the authorities to probe which variants of the Covid are escaping the vaccine.

In a letter, Salunke said, for better efficacy, the second dose needs to be delayed. “This is as if the virus is avoiding antibodies among those vaccinated,” said Salunke, now admitted to a government hospital. According to doctors, Salunke has mild symptoms.

During the second week of March, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), an advisory committee constituted by the government, reviewed the gap between two doses and decided to continue with four to six weeks of interval for two doses of Covishield or Covaxin, another vaccine manufactured by Bharat Biotech.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has on the other hand has recommended two doses with an interval of eight to 12 weeks. The report published in the medical journal Lancet on March 6, 2021, also found strong evidence supporting “a longer-interval immunisation strategy.”

On the efficacy of the vaccine, Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, former head scientist of the Epidemiology and Communicable diseases Division at the Indian Council of Medical Research and head of CG Pandit National Chairs of ICMR, said vaccines ensure that the infection is not severe.

“When we talk about the efficacy of vaccines, it can protect the patient from severe illness and eventually death. This does not mean that the patient will not get mild symptoms or be asymptomatic. To protect oneself from Covid entirely, following Covid-appropriate behaviour like wearing masks and social distancing is important. Whether 14 days or beyond 14 days after the second vaccine doses, the risk of infection remains,” said Dr Gangakhedkar.

He further added that it is observed globally, that if somebody gets an infection after vaccination, it is likely that the transmission efficiency to affect others is reduced as the viral load is less.

“So after a vaccine is taken the transmission of Covid is less. Wearing a mask is the best solution to avoid Covid infection,” said Dr Gangakhedkar.

Last week, two staffers from city-based Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital also tested positive after taking both doses of the vaccine. Both the staffers tested positive after 14 days of taking the second jabs.

“I am asymptomatic and have isolated myself at home along with my family. I do not have mild symptoms also. I had taken the Covishield vaccine on March 13,” said Dr Bharti.

Dr Bharti added that his family also tested positive. “My wife had taken the second dose of Covishield vaccine, but she tested positive in less than 14 days after taking the vaccine,” said Dr Bharti.

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