The Indian government on Thursday refuted any claim regarding the COVID-19 booster shots being given priority in the scientific discussions and the public health domain. They said administering the two doses remains the central concern of the authorities.
ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava, in response to a question at a press briefing, said that administering complete vaccination of both doses is “absolutely essential” and nothing should hinder that process.
A booster dose is the third dose of the Covid-19 Vaccine, which is recommended to vaccinated people with lower antibody levels as they are more at risk of severe and prolonged illness from Covid-19.
As 20 per cent of the vaccinated people have failed to develop antibodies against Covid-19, they have become immunocompromised on moderate and severe levels.
ICMR is yet to approve the dose based on the outcome of the clinical trial.
“Several agencies (hinting at WHO and FDA) have recommended that antibody levels not be measured, but the important understanding is that full vaccination of both the doses is essential and there should be no breakage in that,” the ICMR director said in his stance.
This response has come three days after a review published in The Lancet deemed these booster shots to be “not appropriate at this stage of a pandemic”.
This review, concluded by scientists, including some from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), runs counter to some observational studies.
The study published in Science Translational Medicine had found that an additional boost using vaccines containing the original strain of coronavirus will increase protection against variants of concern.
New data from Moderna Inc’s large COVID-19 vaccine trial also indicated a decline in the protection current two doses of vaccine offer in the face of Delta variants.
These results, combined with the finding that a third shot will generate a more significant immune response, led to the popularity of booster shots.
With the threat of waning vaccine protection, many countries, including the USA, France, Germany and Israel, started laying out plans to administer booster shots.
Just yesterday, England launched its COVID-19 booster vaccination campaign. USA’s leader Biden also set a Sept. 20 target to begin administering 100 million booster shots in the United States.
However, the authors of the review mentioned above assuaged these fears and noted that waning levels of antibodies in vaccinated individuals do not necessarily predict reductions in the efficacy of vaccines against severe disease.
Even for Delta Variants, the vaccine efficacy against severe Covid-19 is so high that the booster doses for the general population are not suitable at this stage in the pandemic, they further added.
ON Wednesday, the FDA also cleared that there is not much need for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine booster doses. WHO has also stressed the need of carrying out complete vaccination of 2 doses before moving to a third shot.
Especially in a country like India, where a substantial chunk of the population remains fully inoculated, the need of the hour is immediate vaccination through two shots rather than bringing in booster shots.
According to the data provided by the Health Ministry of India, 20 % of India’s adult population have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and 62 % have received at least one dose.
Also, 99 % of the healthcare workers have received the first dose, while 82 % of the eligible healthcare workers have taken the second dose.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that 100 % of the frontline workers got their first dose while 78 % got fully vaccinated with the second dose.
The average daily vaccination in the first 15 days of September has been 74.40 lakh per day, Bhushan added.