One dose of the vaccine against the coronavirus has proved to be 96.6% effective in preventing deaths while two shots provide 97.5% efficacy against fatality due to the infection, the Centre said on Thursday.

The figures were presented by Indian Council of Medical Research chief Balram Bhargava at a press briefing on India’s coronavirus situation. This was based on data collated between April 18 to August 15.

Bhargava said that the vaccines have a “protective effect against death” across age groups, which includes beneficiaries above 60, between 45 and 59 years, or 18 to 44 years.

The government data also showed that most of the Covid-19 deaths, recorded between April 18 and August 15, were among those who had not been vaccinated.

Source: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

Bhargava said that an analysis of the data on India’s inoculated population showed that vaccines had been effective in preventing mortality to a large extent.

“Vaccines are disease-modifying, not disease-preventing,” he added. “But even among those who get breakthrough infections after vaccination, a very small percentage requires hospitalisation.”

The ICMR chief urged Indians to get vaccinated and follow Covid-19 protocols ahead of festivals, adding that the second wave of the pandemic was not over yet.

NITI Aayog member (Health) VK Paul also said that vaccines were being used in India to help in preventing serious disease and death even after the first dose.

“It becomes clear that among our pandemic-fighting tools, vaccination is the most important shield,” Paul added. “Fifty-eight percent of India’s adult population has got the first dose, while 18% has received two doses.”

Paul also appealed to all adult Indians to get themselves inoculated.

Centre on vaccinating children

Paul said that vaccination of children was not a requirement for reopening schools. However, he emphasised that staff members and parents should get themselves vaccinated, and schools should strictly adhere to the Covid-19 norms.

“Vaccination for children is an evolving discourse,” the government official said. “Only a few nations have introduced vaccination for children. As I said earlier also, there is no WHO [World Health Organization] recommendation that we should move in that direction.”

Paul also cited low mortality due to Covid-19 in children and a high-incidence of asymptomatic infection.

“No country is following the criteria of vaccinating children for opening schools,” he added. “Schools were opening when vaccines were nowhere in sight. That is not a criteria. No scientific body or evidence suggests that it is to be a condition.”

However, the expert said that India was actively working towards the scientific validation of vaccines for their potential use among children.

Paul added: “Zydus Cadila vaccine is already licensed for children. Our scientific groups are discussing how to go about vaccinating children. The trial of Covaxin on children is close to completion.”