Booster drive needs a shot in the arm
The government has to find ways to counteract the sense of complacency and fatigue that has seeped into the general public, undertake massive public awareness programmes and, if needed, extend the free booster drive
A 75-day nationwide drive to administer free booster shots, announced to mark 75 years of India’s Independence, comes to a close on September 27. By all measures, the decision aimed at expanding the country’s booster coverage, has been a success. An analysis in this newspaper published on Monday showed that the seven-day average of daily booster administration increased from 0.14 million in the week ending April 17 (when all adults became eligible) to 2.03 million doses in the week ending September 17. It brought down the booster lag from 91.6% eligible people not receiving their third shots on July 15 to 75.2% on September 17. This can be attributed not only to removing the price barrier but also the move to hold special camps in special camps at railway stations, bus stations, airports, schools and colleges, remote areas and during religious yatras.
But concerns linger. Three of four people eligible for the third shot have still not turned up for their booster jab, and even if the highest pace of administering jabs is sustained (2.65 million shots per day on average), seven out of 10 people will still remain without their precaution doses when the drive ends next week. This is a problem, given that studies have now conclusively shown that immunity from two doses begins waning after four-to-six months. Therefore, the government has to find ways to counteract the sense of complacency and fatigue that has seeped into the general public, undertake massive public awareness programmes (on the lines of the interventions that helped curb vaccine hesitancy and problems of access during the first two doses), and, if needed, extend the free booster drive. Only this will ensure continued protection from newer variants of Sars-Cov-2 for all Indians.