The discussion about booster dose has gained momentum among top health experts as they recommend it to people with comorbidities and healthcare workers. Some also argue that the priority should be to innoculate the entire population with both doses of vaccines first.
The US government on Friday opened up Covid booster shots to all adults in an effort to curb rising infections.
However, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that a decision on booster dose would be taken based on the expert recommendation only, adding that, the priority is to complete the adult vaccination programme with both doses at the earliest.
Talking to IANS, Dr Samiran Panda, Head, Epidemiology and Infectious diseases division at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said that Covid booster dose may be introduced based on the scientific evidence, but this time our focus should be oriented on total vaccination with both doses across the nation.
Padma Shri Dr Ashok Seth, Chairman Pan Fortis Medical Council, told IANS, “We should not follow the US in administering the booster dose. Instead, we need to focus on second dose of vaccination which have been left behind. Once we will start administering booster dose, our mass vaccination program may be hampered which we can’t bear”.
Citing the reasons for booster dose in the US, he said that the Delta variant is causing infections in European countries and that is also a reason for booster dose there. However, India has passed that phase now. “Healthcare workers were the first to be vaccinated. But no case has yet come after around 9 to 10 months which can advocate the need for the booster doses in India”, opined Dr Seth.
However, the Indian Medical Association has called for the third booster dose for the healthcare workers across the nation. The IMA said that after the union government’s clarification pertaining to the fact that a policy document on booster dose is underway, the IMA has also consolidated its stand on the booster dose for healthcare workers and other high-risk citizens across the country.
Dr J.A. Jayalal, National President, IMA, said, “The booster dose for healthcare workers was initially desirable and we were not demanding it. But now we demand that healthcare workers should be given a booster dose as ample vaccine stock is available”.
Dr Ashutosh Shukla, Senior Director, Internal Medicine & Medical Advisor, Max Hospital, told IANS that the priority for India should be to ensure both doses of vaccination for the entire country this time. As the breakthrough infection rate is much lower, the third shot should be given only to the vulnerable and those with immune suppress state.
He said, “We have to wait for more research data on this as to when to administer the booster dose. The efficacy for the current vaccine falls between 70 and 80 per cent after 6 months of administration. So, whether the third shot should be given after 6 or 9 months or even after a year will be determined by the further research which is yet to come”.
However, a source in the health ministry said that a policy document on the booster dose is underway and the decision would be taken after an in-depth evaluation of the data.
(Avinash Prabhakar can be reached at Avinash.P@ians.in)