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COVID-19 vaccination booster dose can wait: ICMR

Current focus to cover at least 80% of eligible adult population, it says

December 12, 2021 09:47 pm | Updated December 13, 2021 08:38 am IST - NEW DELHI

A health worker administering a shot of Covid-19 vaccine dose of Covishield to a beneficiary, at Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Janakpuri in West Delhi on Sunday, December 12, 2021.

A health worker administering a shot of Covid-19 vaccine dose of Covishield to a beneficiary, at Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Janakpuri in West Delhi on Sunday, December 12, 2021.

The need for a booster or additional COVID-19 vaccine dose or reduction in time gap between two doses of the available vaccines are being examined, said Dr. Samiran Panda, Head, Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), on Sunday adding that an alarmist intervention doesn’t help.

“Vaccines are not known to prevent COVID-19 but reduces the severity. We have to understand this. Currently the focus is to ensure at least 80% coverage in eligible adult population which is vital,” he said.

To a question on boosters for frontline workers who were among the first section of the population to be vaccinated Dr. Panda said: “There is currently no strong evidence that those who have been vaccinated will not get the virus. Also many have been vaccinated and have got the infection later. The protection that this combination [getting infected and getting vaccinated] offers is also a matter of study.’’

There is no immediate recommendation to introduce booster or additional dose or to reduce the gap between vaccine dose Dr. Panda said. He said from a public health point of view also more coverage is what India is looking at. “Vaccination, use of masks and avoiding mass gathering is key. Now with Omicron also in the country, we still don’t know how the virus is going to shape up. We don’t know its effect on the elderly,’’ he said.

India’s vaccination started on January 16 with the new phase of universalisation of vaccination commencing from June 21. “The vaccination drive has been ramped up through availability of more vaccines, advance visibility of vaccine availability to States for enabling better planning by them and streamlining the supply chain,’’ noted the Health Ministry.

It said as part of the nationwide drive, the Central Government has been supporting the States by providing them vaccines free of cost. In the new phase of the universalisation, the Government will procure and supply (free of cost) 75% of the vaccines being produced by the manufacturers in the country to States. More than 140 crore (1,40,20,73,270) vaccine doses have been provided to States so far through the Government’s (free of cost channel) and through direct state procurement category.

More than 17.93 crore (17,93,72,576) balance and unutilised doses are available with the States to be administered.

New evidence compiled and released by the World Health Organization and the World Bank, on Sunday, said in 2020, the pandemic disrupted health services and stretched countries’ health systems beyond their limits as they struggled to deal with the impact. As a result, for example, immunisation coverage has dropped for the first time in 10 years and deaths from TB and malaria have increased.

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