'Double vaccination first,' say Indian experts amid calls for booster shots
- This discussion regarding the correct timing for a booster shot rekindled amid renewed fears over an impending third wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.
As calls for Covid-19 vaccine booster shots grow amid the emergence of Omicron, the new coronavirus variant, scientists are urging India should prioritise double vaccinating its eligible population first so that most people at least get the base layer of protection against the viral infection.
Many countries have already started giving booster shots to their citizens in light of the new strain. India, however, is yet to consider booster shots even as several experts in the past few days have urged for the same.
“We have a large proportion of our population in the below 18 age group. Until that is achieved, a uniform policy for a second booster, or a third dose, is not advisable,” news agency PTI quoted immunologist Vineeta Bal as saying.
Adding to the argument, Satyajit Rath, from New Delhi's National Institute of Immunology (NII), said it is not clear if boosters are needed for any vaccine worldwide yet. “The duration of immune responses and protection are beginning to show differences, too, in recent studies. So I would be loath to jump the gun and say anything very definitive about boosters based on these data,” he told PTI.
Bal agreed that there is no solid data on waning immunity in India. In principle, of course, immunity will wane with time.
“Antibody levels in serum will be lower six months down the road than soon after vaccination but that is not the only and adequate evidence of significant lowering of protective immunity which is based on immunological memory,” she added.
Vasant Nagvekar, a consultant on infectious diseases at a Mumbai-based hospital and a member of the Maharashtra government's Covid-19 task force on Thursday, said a booster dose of vaccine, even if it works, is just a temporary fix and the emphasis should instead be on mask use.
This discussion regarding the correct timing for a booster shot rekindled amid renewed fears over an impending third wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In the meantime, the health community is trying to study Coronavirus's new variant which has multiple mutations and is being considered potentially more dangerous than its predecessors.
The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Sequencing Consortium (INSACOG), a network of national testing labs that monitor genomic variations of Covid-19, has recommended a booster dose for those above 40 years in high-risk and high-exposure populations.
Meanwhile, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya informed Parliament on Friday that a decision on booster dose will be taken on the basis of scientific guidance from experts.
At least 36 countries are administering booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) wants the most vulnerable people worldwide to be fully vaccinated first.