Regulatory policy

The current booster dose policy is not sufficient. India needs more booster shots to beat fourth wave

India has not started booster doses for all adults. This is after fourteen months of launching the vaccination campaign. Apart from that, India has nine approved vaccines in its basket. The reckless policy of giving booster doses puts millions of lives at risk. Under current policy, recalls are only open to frontline workers and people over 60. Understanding that the recent increase in cases due to the detection of new variants may be cause for concern, India should start allocating third doses for everyone.

Booster doses in other countries

First, in most developed countries, authorities have opened recalls to anyone over the age of 12. Many developing and underdeveloped countries are also following the same path. This is not the case in India. Secondly, eligible people in India can only receive their booster after 9 months after receiving their second dose of vaccine. The gap between the second and third dose is comparatively much higher than in other countries. The United States gives reminders to its citizens two to five months after the second strike. Similarly, the delay between doses in the UK, Australia, Japan and France is two, three, six and three months respectively. Pakistan has started giving boosters to healthcare workers, people 30 or older and immunocompromised people over 12. The gap was maintained at six months. In addition, several countries, including Israel, Chile and Sweden, Denmark already offer the fourth dose to the elderly and risk groups.

Status of booster doses in countries administering the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

On February 8, 2022, Australia approved a booster dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Covidshield, for all adults. Last year in September, Britain’s medicines regulator approved the use of AstraZeneca as a Covid booster vaccine, clearing the way for winter distribution. This year, in January, the Indonesian Food and Drug Supervision Agency authorized the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for its booster program.

Possibility of next wave

According to a recent study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India could be hit by the fourth wave of Covid in June. The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, also indicates that the wave could continue for up to four months, which is longer than any of the previous three waves. observed by the country. At the same time, new subvariants made news in countries like France, the United States, Brazil and Israel. China has already quarantined 30 million people. Last week, the WHO also warned of the possibility of a new wave with an increase in cases around the world. The severity of the possible next wave will massively depend on the status of the booster doses administered in the country.

Why do we need to open booster doses for all

Although vaccines offer considerable protection against the virus after the second dose, the strength begins to weaken after a while. The Covidshield vaccine from the AstraZeneca-Serum Institute joint venture has been administered to more than 90% of Indians. Aside from protection against infection, studies indicate that the effectiveness of the vaccine against death and serious illness is reduced to less than half after 6 months. Additionally, two large-scale studies were performed in Israel that started booster doses in July 2021 showed that people vaccinated with booster doses are saved from severe illness and death. According to an editorial that accompanied the New England Journal of Medicine studies, COVID-19 boosters have been shown to have a relative effectiveness of 90% to 95% against severe disease. These numbers are for the delta variant, and preliminary data reveals that protection against the omicron variant is declining faster. It makes sense to vaccinate people who were inoculated much earlier. As there are considerable chances of a new strain, booster shots help maintain the body’s ability to deal with it.

India has started vaccinating all adults with the first dose from May 2021 and Covidshield has a 3 month gap allowing these adults to get vaccinated only after May 2022. With forecasts of a new wave, in June, it would be disastrous to wait.

The Center says more than 17.25 doses of the COVID-19 cr vaccine are available with unused states. In December, Serum Institute, the maker of Covidshield in India, said it was cutting capacity to half of 25 crore a month due to a lack of government orders. Health professionals have previously warned against wasting vaccines due to their expiry. Although the Ministry of Health may export the excess stock to avoid wastage, with much of the population now waiting on deck, India may begin giving a third dose to all eligible citizens.

We are now reaching immunization saturation for the first two doses, with states like Delhi reducing the number of immunization centers due to a drop in demand. Apart from that, we are jeopardizing the lives of our own people. We have the ability to distribute third doses to everyone, it would be foolish not to vaccinate as many as possible before a new variant hits.

Mahek Nankani is Deputy Program Director, The Takshashila Institution. Harshit Kukreja is Research Analyst, The Takshashila Institution. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not represent the position of this publication.

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