Experts root for rollout of booster shots for 45+

Updated on Feb 26, 2022 07:16 PM IST

Vellore-based virologist Dr T Jacob John said that booster doses should be rolled out for everyone, more so for people who are immunocompromised

Booster doses for senior citizens and frontline workers were opened on January 10. (Vijay Bate/HT Photo)
Booster doses for senior citizens and frontline workers were opened on January 10. (Vijay Bate/HT Photo)

Mumbai: As the Centre is still examining the scientific evidence on the feasibility of rolling out Covid-19 booster doses for a wider population, medical experts have pitched that the third dose be extended to everyone above the age of 45 in view of the excess vaccines available at many centres. Presently, senior citizens, healthcare and frontline workers are eligible to get the third shot.

Vellore-based virologist Dr T Jacob John said that booster doses should be rolled out for everyone, more so for people who are immunocompromised and at higher risk of contracting the infection and developing a serious disease.

“We do not know what’s in store for us in the next few months. While the daily cases have slowed down, the country is still recording anywhere between 10,000 to 20,000 new cases. Booster shots will play a role in slowing down the further spread and building better immunity. There is no point in holding back the vaccine when we have it, and many doses are at the risk of expiry,” he said.  

According to John, the states should now be allowed to develop their vaccine strategies depending on the excess doses they have and the overall coverage of the vaccination. “Decentralising the decision making is important at this point of time. The local governments can prioritise people with comorbidities and start administering the boosters immediately,” he said.

Booster doses for senior citizens and frontline workers were opened on January 10. In Maharashtra, 15,02,968 booster doses have been administered by Friday evening, according to the Co-Win dashboard.

With a slowed intake of the vaccines, many private hospitals in Maharashtra have doses nearing expiry. The Maharashtra government has asked private hospitals to donate their excess stocks to public run centres.

According to state officials, rough estimates gathered from private centres showed that they collectively had 7,00,000 vaccine doses expiring between February and September.

In Mumbai, civic officials said that around 40,000 dosses with private hospitals are nearing expiry.  

“The decision to roll out boosters cannot be taken based on the availability of excess doses,” said vaccination expert Dr Naveen Thacker. “But if high coverage of the first two doses has been achieved, the next susceptible population should definitely get the benefit of the third doses,” he said.  

Some experts, however, believe that the Omicron-driven third wave has drastically changed India’s immune profile. “Studies have shown that Omicron was extremely immunogenic and the infection triggered a much higher level of antibody response. In such a scenario, a third dose is completely unnecessary,” said epidemiologist Dr Jayaprakash Muliyal, who is also a member of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI).

“There may be a requirement for a newer vaccine, depending on how the profile of virus changes in the days to come, but for the time being we are safe,” he said.  

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