Two post-vaccination deaths in Telangana, one in Andhra Pradesh; adverse events committees’ reports awaited on possible cause
The SARS-CoV-2 vaccination programme for frontline workers in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, two States that were in the top five States for implementation of the vaccine, stuttered after two health care workers died on January 24 days after they were administered the Covishield vaccine. Their deaths bring to eight the total number of post-COVID-19 vaccination fatalities in the country.
In Andhra Pradesh, a 42-year-old Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) from Penumaka village in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur district, died at the Guntur General Hospital, while in Telangana, a 45-year-old female health care worker, who got herself vaccinated at an Urban Primary Health Centre (UPHC) in New Shayampeta, Warangal Urban district, died four days after she had received the vaccine.
Their deaths have resulted in the Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) committees in both States initiating inquiries and making promises of compensation to the victims’ families. It is hoped that the two cases might provide vital information about complications post-vaccination.
The unnamed 45-year-old female Telangana health care worker, who was also a teacher by profession, got herself vaccinated along with other health care workers in Telangana’s New Shayampeta, Warangal Urban district, around noon on January 19. She complained of chest pain on the night of January 23 and took some medicines before retiring to bed. She was found dead in the morning. Her body was shifted to the State-run Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital for post-mortem, and samples of the viscera, body fluids, and parts of various organs were collected and, following procedure, sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, to ascertain the cause of her death.
“It has come to the notice of the undersigned that she expired in the early hours of January 23. The District Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI) committee is examining the matter and will submit its report to the state AEFI committee. The State AEFI committee will in turn furnish its report to the Central AEFI committee”, said an official statement from Dr G. Srinivasa Rao, Telangana’s Director of Public Health.
Ambulance driver dies
The 45-year-old female health care worker is the second person from Telangana to have died after being vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. In both cases the deceased had complained of chest pain.
On January 20, a 42-year-old ambulance driver in Telangana’s Nirmal district, who was vaccinated a day earlier at the Kuntala Primary Health Centre in the same district, died after complaining of chest pain. A statement from the Telangana government said that primary investigation suggested that the death was not related to the vaccine. Said the statement, from G. Srinivas Rao: “One male health care worker, 42 years old was vaccinated at about 11.30 a.m. on 19.1.2021 in Kuntala PHC, Nirmal District. At about 2.30 a.m. on January 20, he is said to have developed chest pain and was brought dead to the District Hospital at Nirmal around 5.30 a.m. Preliminary findings suggest that the death seems to be unrelated to vaccination. As per the guidelines, post-mortem will be conducted by a team of doctors. The district AEFI committee is examining the matter and will submit its report to the State AEFI committee, which will submit it to the Centre.”
Protest in Andhra Pradesh
In Andhra Pradesh, the death of the ASHA health care worker triggered protests, with leaders of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and activists, along with ASHA workers, staging a dharna at the Guntur General Hospital on January 24, demanding that the family of the deceased be given a job, farm land and Rs.50 lakh as compensation.
ASHA worker, Bokka Vijayalakshmi, along with other doctors and staff members, including her colleague G. Lakshmi, working under the Tadepalli Primary Health Centre (PHC), had got vaccinated from the first vial at the Tadepalli PHC, on January 20. The very next day, Vijayalakshmi started suffering from headache, vomiting, dizziness, a mild cough, and pain in the epigastric region of the abdomen. The woman’s family shifted her to the NRI General Hospital at Mangalagiri on January 21. After primary treatment, and with no signs of improvement in her health, she was admitted to the GGH on January 22. The woman’s colleague, Lakshmi, also fell ill but recovered.
Admitted to the Neurology Department ICU early in the morning of January 24 in a semi-conscious condition — disoriented, with incoherent speech and drooling — doctors put Vijayalakshmi on a ventilator. But she died soon after. According to attending doctors, the woman may have died due to Thrombogenic Ischemic Demyelination, a brain stroke.
Though Ischemic Demyelination is a condition listed among those falling under AEFI, the State AEFI committee, which comprises heads of the departments of pathology, virology and other wings, has decided to carry out an investigation.
The Hindu in its report quoted a senior doctor as saying: “This, perhaps, comes under the rare episode of Thrombogenic Ischemic Demyelination caused by vaccination. However, we have to make a detailed investigation. Her family history shows a record of stroke. In fact, her mother had a similar stroke last year. But we are not making any conclusive statements for now.”