ICMR study on Tamil Nadu police personnel reaffirms effectiveness of COVID vaccines in preventing death

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A real-world study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Epidemiology (ICMR-NIE), based on vaccination, hospitalization data from Tamil Nadu Police (frontline workers) has re-affirmed the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing death.

This study is significant because of its potential to further dispel the myths over vaccines. The result also comes at a time when information regarding the real-world effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines for severe disease is unavailable in India currently.

Data utilized for this study was for the period between February 1 and May 14 this year. This was also the time period when India was reeling under the second wave of the pandemic. As per the study, of 117,524 Police personnel in Tamil Nadu – 32,792 received one dose, 67,673 received two doses while the remaining 17,059 were unvaccinated.

Among over 1.17 lakh Police personnel, 31 deaths were reported between April 13 and May 14 this year. The median age of the deceased was 52, their age ranged between 34-58 and it comprised 29 men and 2 women. Of the 31 who succumbed, four had taken two doses of the vaccine, seven had taken one dose and the remaining 20 were unvaccinated.

“The incidence of COVID-19 deaths among those who received zero, one and two doses were 1.17, 0.21 and 0.06 per 1000 police personnel respectively,” the study says. It adds that, compared to unvaccinated individuals, the relative risk of COVID-19 death among those who received one and two doses were 0.18 and 0.05 respectively.

It also goes on to state that, “vaccine effectiveness in preventing COVID-19 deaths with one and two doses was 82 per cent and 95 per cent respectively.” The report mentions that the results of this study (TN Police & ICMR NIE) are consistent with the published studies showing effectiveness of vaccines against severe disease.

This study does have its limitations such as, not having specific figures for each vaccine (Covaxin and Covishield), no individual data for co-morbidities, age and previous exposure to COVID-19.

“Study conducted by vaccine makers are done under very controlled conditions and in an ideal scenario, but this one is a real-world trial on frontline workers” Dr. Manoj V Murhekar, Director NIE told Zee Media. He also added that a more detailed study was being conducted across 10 hospitals in India, by taking into consideration the patient details, age, co-morbidities etc. The results of this study is expected to be available by the end of this month.

According to Mr. Shankar Jiwal, Commissioner of Police, Chennai, there was huge vaccine hesitancy among the Police personnel, Ministerial staff and family members, owing to panic and a lack of clarity in the intial stages. However, the situation gradually improved, thanks to awareness campaigns, circulars, systematic approach and efforts of the department.

“About two months ago, 71% of the personnel had taken their first dose, whereas 10% had taken their second shot. With personnel and family members understanding the importance of vaccines and the protection, many came voluntarily, enthusiastically along with their family members to take their jabs. As on 8th July(Thursday), 95% of the personnel had taken their first dose and 53% had received both shots” Shankar Jiwal, Commissioner of Police, Chennai told Zee Media.

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