48% citizens want the Government to make COVID test mandatory before administering vaccine doses
- ● Likely that vaccine dose causing overstimulation in some asymptomatic COVID positive individuals
- ● 54% citizens say they have 1 or more individuals in their social network who experienced severe COVID after 1 or both doses of COVID vaccine indicating high prevalence levels of such events
May 15, 2021, New Delhi: According to experts, the COVID-19 vaccines that are available in India are expected to minimize the impact of COVID on individuals, and also minimize severe COVID and chances of needing intensive care. Lately there has been a surge in the number of posts and comments on LocalCircles about people reporting that they or someone in their family despite taking one or both doses of either Covishield or Covaxin have contracted with many of them experiencing even severe COVID and some even death. Even the World Health Organisation has clarified that a person could be infected with SARS-CoV-2 just before or after vaccination and still get sick with COVID-19. Many media reports, especially the ones coming from rural areas in northern and central states of India have also indicated how vaccine hesitancy in villages can be attributed to many falling sick and some even passing away post taking the vaccine.
After receiving lots of posts and comments from citizens on the LocalCircles platform about their family members contracting moderate or severe COVID immediately following the vaccine dose, LocalCircles conducted a survey to understand the percentage of citizens who have had someone in their social network experiencing severe COVID after 1 or both doses of COVID vaccine. Given that vaccinating an asymptomatic a COVID positive individual can overstimulate their immune response making COVID moderate or severe, the survey also sought citizens’ perception if a Rapid Antigen Test should atleast be made mandatory before a vaccine dose is administered. The survey received more than 16,000 responses from citizens located in 278 districts of India.
54% citizens say they have 1 or more individuals in their social network who experienced severe COVID after 1 or both doses of COVID vaccine
Per citizen inputs on LocalCircles and media reports citing doctors, a sizable number of COVID positive patients are ones who have already taken 1 or both shots of the COVID vaccine. To understand from a larger group of citizens, the survey asked a question about the number of individuals they know in their social network (self, family, extended family friends, colleagues, neighbours) who have tested positive for COVID with severe symptoms within a week of getting the vaccine dose. It may be noted that the above is different than the breakthrough infections which according to USA's Center for Disease Control(CDC) are known to occur after 14 days or more post the second dose
In response, 20% said “5 or more individuals”, 15% said “3-4 individuals”, 12% said “2 individuals”, 7% said “1 individual”. Breaking down the poll, 35% said “no one in my social network has had COVID within a week of getting a COVID vaccine dose”, while 11% couldn’t say. The findings of the poll indicate that 54% of citizens say they have 1 or more individuals in their social network who experienced severe COVID after 1 or both doses of COVID after 1 or both doses of COVID vaccine. This question in the survey received 7,496 responses. If one were to assume that a person on average has 200 individuals in their social network like assumed in previous social network based surveys by LocalCircles, a rough estimate comes to approximately 4 million citizens testing positive for COVID post taking a vaccine dose. India has reported over 13 million cases since the vaccination drive began on January 16th this year.
48% citizens want that a COVID test be mandatory before administering the vaccine to reduce chances of moderate or severe COVID in asymptomatic individuals
Given the high prevalence of COVID in India with 350,000 - 400,000 cases reported daily despite limited or no testing available in most rural parts of India, it is quite likely that several million cases each day are not getting captured due to limited testing. Experts have estimated that 80% of the cases in India are likely to be asymptomatic. What that indicates is that a large number of individuals who are going to get their vaccine may be asymptomatic. In such individuals, their immune response is able to tackle the virus effectively. However, if such COVID positive individuals are vaccinated by injecting a new vector, their immune response can be overstimulated leading to the individual becoming moderate or severe. This week a NTAGI Government of India panel recommended COVID recovered to wait for 6 months to take 1st dose of the vaccine. Taking cognizance of the issue, the following question sought citizens’ response if they think that a Rapid Antigen Test should be made mandatory before a vaccine dose is administered. In response, the majority of 48% said “Yes”. There were also 27% of citizens who said “No”, while 25% couldn’t say. This question in the survey received 8,658 responses.
It must be noted that given the high levels of prevalence of COVID in India with majority being asymptomatic carriers and a fast spreading SARS-COV2 strain B.1.617.2 it is critical that experts take this issue up for study and if the risk levels are found to be high, for inclusion in the vaccination protocols.
It may be noted that Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) was picked as the results are immediate. Alternatively, individuals could be asked to present a RT-PCR or RAT test report from within 48 hours as a pre-cursor to vaccination.
In summary, 54% of citizens surveyed have had 1 or more individuals in their social network who experienced severe COVID after taking 1 or both doses of COVID vaccine. This is a significant number that cannot be ignored.
Given such a scenario, 48% citizens are in favour of making the Antigen test mandatory before vaccination. The 48% supporting such a move is a fairly high number keeping in mind that for so many people it will make the vaccination process more cumbersome and longer. Hence the Central Government should take immediate cognizance of the issue and see if the vaccination protocol can be updated and sufficient antigen tests can be made available in India. Given that COVID is currently declining in most countries around the world, availability of test kits shouldn’t be an issue. Once enough are available in country, the State Governments can procure them along with the vaccine and make testing a pre-cursor to the COVID vaccine shot.
More than 16,000 responses were received from citizens residing in 278 districts of India. 69% respondents were men while 31% respondents were women. 42% respondents were from tier 1, 29% from tier 2 and 29% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.