MEA asks health ministry to allow boosters for diplomats

Published on Mar 31, 2022 12:35 AM IST

The MEA's request for ‘precautionary doses’ for diplomates comes as they have to travel abroad frequently for bilateral and multilateral engagements, people aware of the matter said.

Election duty official receives a booster dose of Covishield vaccine, ahead of upcoming UP Assembly elections at a training center, in Prayagraj on February 4. (PTI)
Election duty official receives a booster dose of Covishield vaccine, ahead of upcoming UP Assembly elections at a training center, in Prayagraj on February 4. (PTI)
By, New Delhi

The external affairs ministry has asked the Union health ministry to allow Indian diplomats to take third doses of Covid-19 vaccines – referred to by the government as precautionary doses – since they need to travel abroad frequently for bilateral and multilateral engagements, people aware of the matter said.

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The request comes at a time when the government is yet to expand the precautionary doses, which at present are being given to those in frontline or healthcare jobs and people aged 60 and above. Several countries, however, have stringent vaccination norms.

“The MEA has asked for booster dose for diplomats as they have to travel to various countries for bilateral or multilateral engagements. And the problem is that many countries won’t allow them to enter without booster doses,” said an official aware of the matter, asking not to be named.

There was no immediate response from officials at the external affairs ministry.

India is yet to prepare a plan to vaccinate its entire adult population with booster shots, a second person aware of the matter said.

While one of the two expert groups — National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) and National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) — discussed the issue of booster doses, “there has been no mention of booster dose in the minutes of the meeting and no suggestion has been made by these expert panels so far in this regard,” the second official said on condition of anonymity.

In a guidance for how countries can prioritise the use of Covid-19 vaccines released on January 21 this year, the World Health Organization recommended that countries with “moderate-to-high rates of primary” vaccination should prioritise available resources to first achieve high booster dose coverage in high risk groups, such as the elderly, before doses are opened to other younger groups.

India has started primary Covid vaccination for children in the age group of 12-15 years from March 16. Government sources indicated that the priority would be to inoculate those under 12, subject to approval of the drug authorities and expert groups.

The Delhi high court asked the Union government on March 21 to file a report on when it plans to open vaccination for those under 12.

Officials indicated that as and when booster dose for all adults are allowed, the vaccine shots might be made available over the counter, but all vaccine sales and administration would remain under the tight supervision of the government and all sales would be done through the Co-WIN platform.

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