Actor Vivek’s death not related to vaccine, Union govt's AEFI panel confirms

This will come as a relief for Tamil Nadu, which has seen a lot of vaccine hesitancy, especially following the veteran Tamil comedian’s death in April this year.
A file image of actor and veteran Tamil comedian Vivek, who died on April 17, 2021
A file image of actor and veteran Tamil comedian Vivek, who died on April 17, 2021

The death of actor Vivek, who passed away on April 17, 2021, two days after he took his COVID-19 vaccine, was not related to vaccination, the Immunization Division of the Union Ministry of the Health and Family Welfare has found. In a report dated September 14, 2021, the National Committee on Serious Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) has said that Vivek’s death was coincidental and not related to the Covaxin shot that he had taken on April 15, 2021. 

This news will come as a relief and is likely to boost vaccination efforts in Tamil Nadu, which has seen vaccine hesitancy especially following veteran Tamil comedian Vivek’s death. The AEFI committee report is final, as this process to establish whether the cause of death is linked to the COVID-19 vaccine goes through many levels of verifications.

The committee has ruled that the official medical reason for the 59-year-old’s death was: ‘Acute myocardial infarction with cardiogenic shock with ventricular fibrillation in a known case of hypertension.’ Acute myocardial infarction refers to blockage of the heart. Cardiogenic shock is when your heart stops pumping blood. Ventricular fibrillation refers to an abnormal heart rhythm, also called as arrhythmia in some cases. This means that the committee has found that actor Vivek suffered a cardiac arrest due to an underlying condition of hypertension. 

The AEFI committee has categorised actor Vivek’s death as ‘C,’ which refers to: Coincidental — Underlying or emerging condition(s), or conditions caused by exposure to something other than vaccine. This has also been confirmed to TNM by a senior health official in Tamil Nadu. The official added that Vivek's ECMO and ECG reports had been submitted to the District AEFI and then the State AEFI, and that both these committees had come to the same conclusion. 

At the national level, medical specialists, cardiologists, neurologists, pulmonary medicine specialists, obstetrician-gynecologists are members of the causality assessment sub-committee.

The results of causality assessment done by this Special Group is discussed in the National AEFI committee meeting for final approval. Only after going through multiple channels of verifications is this committee's report published. 

Actor Vivek’s death had caused a major scare in Tamil Nadu as well as across many other southern states, with many citizens doubting the vaccines and hesitating to get themselves vaccinated against COVID-19, thinking that the vaccine caused the actor’s death. At a time when India is rushing to get its full adult population vaccinated before December 2021, this is a welcome news that will help fight vaccine hesitancy. The AEFI committee has also said that the benefits of vaccination are “overwhelmingly greater than the small risk of harm.”

Actor Vivek passed away on April 17 at SIMS Hospital in Vadapalani in Chennai, following a cardiac arrest at 4.35 am. Doctors had then said that the actor had a 100% blockage in the LAD (left anterior descending artery) vessel which led to a massive cardiac arrest. At that time too, Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan had told the media that the cause of the cardiac arrest was unlikely to be the COVID-19 vaccine.

Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is among the three vaccines that are being administered in India, other than Serum Institute’s Covishield and limited number of doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Earlier this year, Bharat Biotech also published efficacy data, showing that its coronavirus vaccine Covaxin has shown efficacy of 77.8% against symptomatic COVID-19.  It said that Covaxin has 93.4% efficacy against severe symptomatic COVID-19, 63.6% protection against asymptomatic COVID-19, and 65.2% protection against the SARS-CoV-2, B.1.617.2 Delta variant.

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