Expert panel meet on booster shots, jabs for under 18 remains inconclusive
India’s expert panel on vaccines, which met on Monday did not make recommendations either on booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines or on vaccinating those under 18 years of age, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified.
The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), the central government’s expert panel on immunisation, “has not made any recommendations” on any of the issues, a government official said.
As cases of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 rise in the country, there are increasing concerns about those who have been fully vaccinated early in India’s immunisation drive, such as health and frontline workers. This has prompted NTAGI to discuss the feasibility of providing booster or additional doses under the national Covid-19 immunisation programme.
The process is likely to happen in a phased manner with those at high risk, such as immunocompromised or immunosupressed persons, receiving priority. However, more evidence is being studied and an attempt made to build consensus over the issue before a recommendation is made in this regard.
NTAGI, which advises the central government on immunization, has been working on a comprehensive policy for both booster or additional vaccine doses and vaccination for those in the paediatric age group.
“This may be called an additional dose, which is likely to be considered for immunocompromised people to provide additional protection as they are at a higher risk. It’s different from a booster dose that is given after the immunity wanes,” a government expert earlier said on condition of anonymity.
The Centre has always maintained its priority was to vaccinate all eligible persons as fast as possible.
“With high sero prevalence found in surveys conducted at the national and state-level, it can be safely said that most are well protected at the moment,” Dr Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, said. “Giving booster shots is not required at this point. The priority should be to vaccinate all eligible persons who are still left.”
HT learns that government experts are working on a list of comorbidities that could determine which child is eligible for a vaccine first. The list is likely to have those on cancer treatment, transplant cases, and those with compromised immunity, among others.