Creating a bypass, several healthcare workers and those in the high-risk category are getting their third booster dose of COVID-19 vaccination amidst a steady rise in the number of Omicron cases in the country.
While Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said in the Lok Sabha earlier this week that the Central Government was in no hurry to give the green signal for the booster dose and that it would wait for proper scientific analyses, private hospitals have confirmed that they are flooded with requests for booster dose. Several individuals also confirmed that they were getting the “additional vaccine protection.”
“With this new strain Omicron spreading rapidly, there have been a lot of queries related to third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Ankita Baidya, consultant-Infectious Disease, HCMCT Manipal Hospital, Dwarka, Delhi.
Dr. Baidya added that while less than 50 % of the eligible population in India had the full vaccine coverage of two doses, hospitals were creating an awareness about the need for getting fully vaccinated.
“Right now we must stress complete vaccination. The third dose of vaccine is not required based on the current evidence,” she said.
The doctor, however, said that healthcare workers and frontline workers got their shots early in the course of this vaccination programme in January and February.
“Since their exposure is maximum and may grow in the near future we might start the booster dose programme for these groups, but it is not recommended to all other individuals,” she said adding, “Right now we don't know what the antibody status against the COVID virus is. What are the effects of the third booster dose when we are giving the COVID vaccines that already have completed the vaccination schedule of two doses; etc. We still need time to decide about giving the booster doses.’’
Dr. Neetu Jain, senior consultant Pulmonology, PSRI Hospital, said that booster was not available in India but ideal time for it was at least six months after second dose. “But it does vary with the type of vaccine. Its safety and dose have to be recommended by an expert committee. Yes, people are coming with request for booster but this part is still under the purview of Indian Government and no final decision has yet been taken,” she said.
Confirming that the request for third dose was rapidly growing, K. Preetam, Medical Superintendent, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, said that till there was an official green signal hospitals should avoid giving booster dose. “People should wait for the guideline as this is a dynamic virus and we are still learning about several aspects of this. If the Indian Government issues a go-ahead for the booster dose we will start immediately,” he said.
“There is no clarity regarding third dose interval,” cautioned Sundari Shrikant, Director Internal Medicine QRG Super Specialty Hospital, Faridabad, stating that they were currently asking people to wait for Government recommendations.
“Vaccines have been a game changer in our fight against COVID-19 and there is the issue of waning in the immune status so booster dose is advisable considering that this virus is mutating. Vaccination is the best way to keep people safe and with a good immune status, booster dose is advisable along with adhering to COVID Appropriate Behaviour. The Government should look at starting with frontline workers and those with comorbid medical conditions before the larger population is vaccinated for booster,” he said.