29 experts across the country including those in public health, ethics, medicine, law and journalism wrote to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Drugs Controller General of India Dr VG Somani, Chair of National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration Dr VK Paul, Secretary of Department of Biotechnology Dr Renu Swarup and Advisor of National AEFI Committee Dr NK Arora, asking for an urgent investigation into deaths and serious AEFIs among those who received the COVID-19 vaccine.
In the backdrop of some countries pausing AstraZeneca vaccine's rollout after deaths from intravascular clotting/thromboembolic events, they wrote that there are possible linkages between the vaccination and blood clotting.
"We understand that at least 65 deaths have occurred following vaccination for COVID-19 since the vaccination campaign started on January 16. However, the National AEFI Committee’s investigation findings of only two of these deaths have been made public," they wrote in the statement.
Reports of other serious AEFIs including neurological symptoms, hemiplegia and Guillain-Barre syndrome also need to be investigated, they said.
The signatories asked for an investigation into possibilities of the COVID-19 vaccine triggering serious AEFI in people with certain medical conditions, who are the ones in need of vaccination. They pointed out that there are gaps in AEFI investigations at the local level, affecting the quality of evidence submitted to state and national AEFI committees who depend on these findings for making causality assessments.
They asked for several aspects to be put in the public domain including details of serious AEFIs, status of investigation, cause of death by clinical diagnosis, autopsy findings, causality assessment and reasoning behind it, aetiology and process undertaken by various AEFI committees.
The signatories include Sandhya Srinivasan, Consulting Editor, Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, Dr Amar Jesani, Editor, Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, Anand Grover, Senior Advocate, Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, and Brinelle Dsouza, Co-convenor, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan.