Countries such as the USA, UK, Israel, Italy, Spain, among others appear to be reaping the benefits of vaccinating more than 50 per cent of their population.
While some of them have effectively contained the spread of the most infectious Delta variant, others have reported low severity and deaths despite the increase in the cases of breakthrough infection.
While comparing the current seven-day average cases with that of the first wave when the population was unvaccinated, the advantage of mass vaccinations is perceptible.
The two data points establish that speedy inoculation is protecting a significant percentage of the infected population from developing severe disease and causing death.
Since the most infectious Delta variant has become dominant in some of these counties, there are no available field studies that provide the effectiveness of vaccines against this variant.
One of the recent reports of the national public health agency of the USA, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the positive impact of the vaccination as it says, “As of August 9, 2021, more than 166 million people in the United States had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”
“During the same time, CDC received reports from 49 U.S. states and territories of 8,054 patients with COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infection who were hospitalized or died,” the CDC, the country’s national public health agency said indicating the benefits of vaccinating more than 50 percent of its population,” it added.
Another report, published in the New York Times on August 10, says that the hospitalization among the fully vaccinated population was between 0.1 percent to 5 percent, and death was between 0.2 percent to 6 per cent of that.
However, it further says that the data belonged to mid-June or July when the Delta variant hadn’t dominated among the US population.
The concern regarding the effectiveness of vaccines against Delta variant stems from the fact the breakthrough infection (infection 14 days after vaccination) has gone up manyfold in some highly vaccinated countries such as the USA.
Nevertheless, looking at the number of deaths during the first wave and comparing it with the current one with the same number of infections on both occasions, the outcome is encouraging.
Take the case of the USA. According to the Johns Hopkins Covid Tracker, the seven-day average of Covid-19 cases on August 15 was 1,30,808 and deaths were 622.
The USA is among the most vaccinated countries as about 51 percent of its total population has been fully vaccinated. Its vaccination process started on December 14, 2020.
During the first wave, when the whole of the population was unvaccinated, with the almost similar seven-day average infection data of 1,30,449 the deaths were 1,143. It is almost 50 percent more than the deaths that occurred post-vaccination.
Another country is the UK where the advantage of rapid vaccination is reflecting in the cases of hospitalization and deaths. The UK started its vaccination process on December 8 and till today its 59 percent population have been fully inoculated.
This pre-vaccination death data is five times more than the current numbers.
A similar trend follows in other majorly vaccinating countries (see box) such as Chile, Spain, Israel, Italy, and France in which the death percentage is down by 30 to 50 percent in the post-vaccination period when compared with the pre-vaccination span.
“The current data establishes the benefits of the vaccine against all the variants and the decline in the number of deaths can be attributed to the swift vaccination process in these countries,” Dr. Jugal Kishore, Director Professor & Head of Community Medicine at Vardhman Mahavir Medical College & Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi, said.
According to Rajesh Kumar, Ex Professor and Head in the Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, "The deaths among vaccinated are very low as seen in these countries.”
“Our state data of Punjab also provide results on the similar line. Unfortunately, current vaccines do not prevent transmission, so vaccinated persons do catch infection and can also transmit but deaths among such cases are rare. These breakthrough infections ironically enhance their immunity too," Dr. Kumar added.
Some health experts say that there is no denying the fact that vaccines are useful and help in minimizing the severity of Covid-19, however, they also give credit to the natural antibody that a large number of the population has developed due to the spread of infection over some time.
“Among the vaccinated population, there are two categories - naturally-recovered & vaccinated and non-infected & vaccinated. We do not have a break-up of data of the impact of the delta variant on these two categories. The current data gives a combined figure. But I believe that natural antibody is also playing its role along with vaccines,” a data scientist, working with the government, said, not wanting to be quoted.
The infection and death numbers in India justify this assumption as, despite a 9 percent fully vaccinated population, the number of death is considerably down as compare to the first wave with the same number of daily average infections.
On August 15, the daily average number of infections in India was 36,874 and deaths were 480. However, during the first wave, when the seven-day average was almost the same, 36,700, the deaths were 632; 24 percent more from the current data.
“Though India has only 9% people fully vaccinated population yet it is still doing better possibly because of high seropositivity in the second wave which is thinning the chain of infection collectively with >30% single-dose vaccination. Many single dose people have already been naturally infected too,” Gyaneshwer Chaubey, Professor in Department of Zoology, Banaras Hindu University, said.