for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up

Fact Check-Multiple factors contributed to India’s second wave

As India is in the grip of a deadly surge of COVID-19 cases with at least 300,000 people testing positive daily for the past week, a misleading claim on social media suggests the country’s spike was caused by vaccination against the coronavirus. This is false: experts say multiple factors, including a slow vaccination campaign, relaxation in preventive measures and more transmissible variants are all contributing to India’s current scenario.

Weeks after India’s government assured the country was in the “end-game” of the pandemic ( here , here ), a second wave of infections in the country has overwhelmed health facilities and crematoriums and prompting an increasingly urgent response from allies overseas sending equipment ( here , here )

“Many are greatly horrified by the surge of cases in India. Doctors who are not employed by the government or own vaccine stock have been warning that taking the vaccine may lower your ability to stand up to the variants,” a Facebook post here claims, which features a report by the BBC on India’s vaccine rollout here , shared over 130 times.

THE COVID-19 VACCINE WON’T MAKE YOU MORE VULNERABLE TO VARIANTS

Overall, vaccines do not lower your immunity, but prepare your body to fight a disease. It is true that inoculation may sometimes cause mild symptoms, like low-grade fever or muscle aches, but these symptoms are normal signs that your body is building protection against the pathogen ( here , here ).

As previously explained by Reuters here , a vaccinated person is much less likely to get infected by either a non-variant (also known as wild-type) of SARS-CoV-2 or a variant, and therefore less likely to spread the disease, than not-vaccinated people are.

Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan ( here ) who has been modeling the trajectory of the outbreak in India with a team of researchers, dismissed the claim that vaccines were to blame for the situation in India. On the contrary, she noted that a more accelerated vaccination program would have put the country in a much better scenario.

“If anything, the sluggish start to the vaccination program in January instead of rapid acceleration in January-March is hurting India bigtime with the management of the pandemic,” Mukherjee said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

Only 2% of Indians have received a full dose and 9% at least one dose as of April 28 and these percentages were even lower when the surge erupted, she explained.

Inoculation in the country accelerated in the late weeks of March, with anyone over 45 being eligible to be vaccinated starting April, CNBC reported here . A Reuters graphic shows this increase in inoculations here (search “India”).

Moreover, experts say the only way India can turn the tide is to ramp up vaccinations and impose strict lockdowns in the so-called red zones of high infection ( here ). The country has already opened up the immunization program to all adults but faces a shortage ( here ).

NOT ONE SINGLE CAUSE

According to Mukherjee, “it is a confluence of factors that has led to this catastrophe,” mentioning both the lack of “early intervention measures”, such as lockdowns, mask mandates and restricting large gatherings and a “well thought-out plan for sequencing that could help us track variants.” (Further reading about this here )

Some health experts said India became complacent in the winter, when new cases were running at about 10,000 a day and seemed to be under control. Authorities lifted restrictions, allowing for the resumption of big gatherings. Others said that it could also be a more dangerous variant of the virus coursing through the country ( here , here ).

"We cannot rule out the role of more infectious variants (homegrown and known imported variants) in different parts of the country”, said Giridhar Babu, professor of epidemiology at the Public Health Foundation of India on April 22 when responding to record figures of contagion ( here ).

The northern Indian state of Punjab, for example, which has reported one of the highest recent fatality rates in the country, said in late March that 81% of 401 COVID-19 samples it sent for genome sequencing were found to be the British variant B.1.1.7 ( here ), which scientists in Britain say is 70% more transmissible and much deadlier than previous ones ( here ).

Meanwhile the Indian variant B.1.617 is widely present in Maharashtra, the country's hardest-hit state, according to India’s National Centre for Disease Control; early modelling of the variant has suggested increased transmissibility, according to the World Health Organization ( here , here ).

On April 27, the WHO stated that it “remains unclear” to what extent virus variants are contributing to the increase in cases ( here ).

“No factor in itself explains this surge but our calculations indicate even with a more transmissible variant early lockdowns and other public health intervention measures could have saved thousands of lives,” said the University of Michigan’s Mukherjee.

VEREDICT

False. Vaccination won’t make you more vulnerable to virus variants. Experts say multiple factors, including a slow vaccination campaign, relaxation in preventive measures and more transmissible variants are all contributing to India’s current scenario.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up