Amid debate over the efficacy of Covid vaccines, particularly against newer and more aggressive variants of the coronavirus, a 26-year-old Mumbai doctor tested positive thrice in 13 months – twice after taking both doses of a vaccine.
The doctor’s family – father, mother and brother, who have co-morbidities – also tested positive, for the first time each, this month. They too have been given both doses of a vaccine.
The entire family was hospitalised, and samples from the doctor and the brother are being analysed to establish the variant (or variants) that infected them and their family.
Dr Shrishti Hallari was on Covid duty at the Veer Savarkar Hospital in Mumbai’s Mulund area, and first contracted the virus on June 17 last year. It was a mild infection at that point.
The first vaccine dose (Covishield) was taken on March 8 this year and the second on April 29. The whole family was vaccinated together.
However, a month later – on May 29 – Dr Hallari tested positive for a second time, this time with mild symptoms that allowed for recovery at home.
The virus then struck again – on July 11 Dr Hallari tested positive again, and this time it was the entire family. All four members are being treated with Remdesivir.
“This third time I suffered more… my family and I were hospitalised, needed Remdesivir. My brother and mother have diabetes and my father has hypertension and cholesterol problems. My brother had difficulty breathing, so he was kept on oxygen for two days,” Dr Hallari said.
The doctor also said a test for Covid antibodies in the blood returned positive results.
Experts have pointed out that a Covid vaccine does not translate to immunity from the disease, and that even after both doses people can still get infected.
The benefit of the vaccine, they have stressed, is that breakthrough infections (infections after vaccination) are milder, rarely require hospitalisation and very unlikely to be fatal.
“I have seen patients who became Covid positive after both doses… patients of all ages can have breakthrough infections… but vaccines reduce the effect and help the patient recover quickly,” Dr Behram Pardiwala, chief of Internal Medicine at Mumbai’s Wockhardt Hospital, said.
Earlier this month an ICMR-funded pre-print study said only 67 of 677 positive RT-PCR samples from across India (from people who had received at least one dose of Covishield or Covaxin) required hospitalistion, and only three resulted in deaths.