Mumbai Teen's Death After COVID Vaccination: What We Know So Far

The teenager's family has said that she suffered a heart attack but it is unclear if they have filed an AEFI as the event occurred a week after she received her COVID-19 vaccine

Shachi Sutaria
Update: 2022-01-17 12:57 GMT

The death of a 15-year-old teenager in Ghatkopar, a suburb in Mumbai, a week after she received her first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine has led to speculation that it could be an adverse event following immunisation (AEFI). India launched vaccination for 15–18-year-old teenagers from January 3, 2022. 

However, her family has refuted claims that the vaccine triggered a heart attack and caused her death.

Irrespective of whether the vaccine caused the heart attack or not, it is necessary that the family file a complaint as the event occurred a week after she took the vaccine. It is unclear whether the family has filed a report, yet. BOOM has reached out to the grieving family but has not received a response so far. 

The event was highlighted after a Twitter user tweeted to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation asking for an enquiry into the death of the teenager. While the BMC's official twitter handle asked for more information, within a day the city mayor Kishori Pednekar and the additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani refuted claims of the vaccine causing her death. But several citizens have questioned how the city officials reached this conclusion without any investigation. 

Family Calls It A Natural Death

The teenager died on January 12 after complaining of chest pain, a family member told news daily Mid-Day. She had taken the vaccine seven days before her death. The family member also informed Mid-Day that they took her to Disha Hospital in Ghatkopar West. 

BOOM contacted the administrator and a doctor at Disha hospital who informed that the teenager was brought dead to the hospital. "Since she died on the way to the hospital, the family doctor wrote the cause of death. We could not provide any services," the authorities told BOOM. The doctors told the family that she died due to a heart attack. 

The family further informed the news daily that they do not suspect any foul play and believe that she died naturally. Citing their family doctor's diagnosis, they stated that they have no reason to believe that the vaccine caused their daughter's death.

Health Authorities Rule Out Role Of Vaccine

The BMC later tweeted that they were confirming the unfortunate demise of the teenager but were ruling out the role of the vaccine. They also stated that they will take strict action against those who are spreading misinformation about the girl's death. 

In an interview to Free Press Journal, additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said that they have already initiated action against all those who were using the picture of the girl. Sanjay Sonawane, Assistant Municipal Commissioner is also reported to have said that the BMC officials had checked hospital records for any complaints among teenagers who received the vaccine and did not find any such complaints. 

Twitter users have asked how the health authorities reached this conclusion without a thorough investigation by the committee that looks at all the adverse events following immunisation. It is unclear whether the family has approached the committee or filed a complaint. 

What Is An AEFI? 

Malini Aisola, the co-convener of the All India Drug Action Network - a consumer body that has repeatedly demanded that the AEFI surveillance systems need to be strengthened - tweeted to the BMC asking how they reached the conclusion without a post-mortem or an investigation. 

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare considers any untoward medical occurrence which follows immunisation and which does not necessarily have a causal relationship with the usage of vaccines as an adverse event following immunisation. Death is considered to be a serious AEFI. As the teenager had just received the vaccine before seven days, the family had to inform the vaccination site and raise a complaint. 

However, BOOM has earlier reported that many vaccine recipients are unaware about the need to file an AEFI and even the process. The person is supposed to report to the vaccination officer at the site who is supposed to inform the committee at the centre which will further lead an investigation. 

Several Twitter users, including Yohan Tengra, founding member of Awaken India Movement, a prominent anti-vaxxer group, have asked how the BMC can declare that this was not an AEFI without an investigation. 

The National AEFI committee has so far reviewed over 550 complaints of AEFI of which three deaths have been attributed to events arising due to the COVID-19 vaccines. 

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