New Delhi: Vaccines administered for COVID-19 did not increase the risk of sudden death among young adults in India but it was the post-COVID hospitalisation, family history of sudden death, and certain lifestyle behaviours that are likely the underlying causes, according to a peer-reviewed ICMR study.
The study by Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR) was conducted through the participation of 47 tertiary care hospitals across India. Cases were apparently healthy individuals aged 18-45 years without any known co-morbidity, who suddenly died of unexplained causes during October 2021-March 2023.
Interviews were recorded to collect data on COVID-19 vaccination, infection and post-COVID-19 conditions, family history of sudden death, smoking, recreational drug use, alcohol frequency and binge drinking and vigorous-intensity physical activity two days before death.
“Lifestyle factors such as current smoking status, alcohol use frequency, recent binge drinking, recreational drug/substance use and vigorous-intensity activity were positively associated with unexplained sudden death,” the study noted.
“As compared to never users, the more the frequency of alcohol use, the higher was the odds for unexplained sudden death.”
The study was done in view of some anecdotal reports of sudden unexplained deaths in India’s, apparently healthy young adults during the once-in-a-century pandemic.
“…past COVID-19 hospitalisation, family history of sudden death, binge drinking 48 hours before death/interview, use of recreational drug/substance and performing vigorous-intensity physical activity 48 hours before death/interview were positively associated,” the study document read.
“Two (vaccine) doses lowered the odds of unexplained sudden death, whereas a single dose did not.”
COVID-19 vaccination, it added, by and large, has been documented to prevent all-cause mortality across age groups and settings.
The primary purpose of vaccination is to prevent COVID-19-associated severity. Studies have documented adverse events, predominantly thromboembolic events, following COVID-19 vaccination, it noted.
At a macro level globally, the coronavirus pandemic resulted in excess mortality among certain groups of people and studies have documented them.
In India, there have been several anecdotal reports about sudden unexplained deaths among apparently healthy adults, purportedly linked to COVID-19 or COVID-19 vaccination.
The pathways through which COVID-19 may cause sudden deaths are currently not well-understood, the ICMR study noted. In the Indian context, the reports of sudden death among young adults have not been investigated in detail.
However, the study contended that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
“Although there is some evidence for the increased risk of death among COVID-19-recovered individuals and among those with breakthrough infections, the evidence for sudden deaths among such individuals is scarce,” the study noted.