Will healthcare workers receive Covid-19 vaccine boosters in India? ICMR chief weighs in
Healthcare workers in India were among the first to make it to the government’s priority list for Covid-19 vaccination when the drive to immunise the country against the disease was launched earlier this year. As of Thursday, 99% of the healthcare workers in India have been administered at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 85% of them have been fully vaccinated, according to the Union health ministry’s data.
Director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Balram Bhargava said that discussions about booster doses were “not pertinent", when asked about administering boosters to healthcare workers during a regular press briefing by the health ministry on Thursday.
Bhargava, however, said that the vaccination drive should focus on fully vaccinating the adult population against the disease. “I think, currently I would say that the talk of booster (doses) is not pertinent and I said this last time also. The call of the hour is to give the two-dose vaccination, which we call as full vaccination, covering the entire adult population. That has to be the goal, that is the agenda and that has to be continued,” he said.
Briefing further on why discussions on booster doses were not pertinent at the moment, the ICMR chief said some studies have shown that most of the antibodies against the disease persist for upto a year.
“We have had some studies in India, including Bengaluru, where they have looked at the antibodies and they have found that antibodies are persisting for much longer. More than 95% of the antibodies persist for upto a year. Therefore the concept of booster dose is not pertinent at the moment,” he said.
When asked about the vaccination coverage among healthcare workers, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that the ministry has pointed out to some states about the issue. “We have also taken this up with the states. There are certain specific states where the second dose coverage is on the lower side and we have drawn their attention,” he said.
He also mentioned that a facility in the Co-WIN system has been provided using which a list of those who have missed the second dose of the vaccine could be generated. “So states have got those lists and they are looking at these people and trying to ensure that the second dose is given to these people,” he further said.
The US, the UK, France, Germany and some other nations have already announced their plans to provide a booster dose for their citizens while the World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed its concerns about global distribution of vaccines.
Recently, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also called for a moratorium on providing booster doses at least till the end of this year. However, the countries that have announced the booster doses have opted to proceed with their programmes.