Doctors cautiously welcome COVID-19 vaccine booster dose plan

WHO recently stated that people with weaker immune systems should receive additional shot of COVID-19 vaccine

Updated - October 13, 2021 08:54 am IST

Published - October 12, 2021 07:25 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Covishield and Covaxin vaccine vials at a temporary COVID-19 vaccination centre. File

Covishield and Covaxin vaccine vials at a temporary COVID-19 vaccination centre. File

While the Union Health Ministry has adopted a wait and watch policy, the medical fraternity has cautiously welcomed the recent observation by the World Health Organization (WHO) that people with weaker immune systems should receive an additional shot of approved COVID-19 vaccines.

The recommendation follows a four-day meeting of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunisation and a final report is to be issued in December. “Persons who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed, at any age will benefit from booster shots as they are unable to generate adequate levels of immune response to the standard dose regimen. The same is likely to be true for many of the elderly above 65 years of age,” said Professor K. Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

Also read: Vaccine efficacy counters need for booster shots, says Lancet review

Immunocompromised

Dr. Rajesh Chawla, senior consultant, Pulmonology and Critical Care, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, stated that there was scientific evidence that a booster dose did help in augmenting the immunity of a person against COVID-19 and this was more relevant in the case of the immunocompromised.

“It’s good that based on this evidence, the expert panel from the WHO is looking at recommending booster dose for those with weaker immunity. As such this group is more prone towards getting severe infections and suffering serious out comes in comparison to a healthier population,” he pointed out.

Dr. A K Jhingan, diabetologist, Delhi Diabetes Research Centre, explained that about 3% of the population had weakened immune systems or had been suffering from autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease or HIV.

Also read: COVID-19 booster dose not a central theme at the moment: Government

“An extra dose of COVID-19 vaccine will definitely help this population in addressing the mortality and bringing down the severity of infection. People with low immunity should continue to take precautions and practise protocols of social distancing, wearing masks, and sanitising hands frequently,’’ he observed.

According to doctors, many countries across the world have begun giving booster shots to people with weak immunity and elderly.

‘Wasteful thinking’

Dr, Ayush Gupta, consultant, Pulmonology, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, noted: “Although it sounds scientifically reasonable to do so, the evidence regarding the same is not very robust. We routinely give booster dose of vaccination for respiratory diseases like annual flu shots. However, the status in the vaccine is modified every year depending upon the prevalent strain in the community. This is not valid for COVID-19, as the same vaccine is being given for the booster dose as well.

Comment | The importance of the booster dose to plan ahead

“Moreover, in a country like India, where only around 30-35% present of the adult population is fully vaccinated and the programme is yet to begin for children, diverting this sacred resource towards booster dose seems like a wasteful thinking and cannot be prioritised from public health point of view.’’

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