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India gears up for third, booster dose; but plan of action still unclear

More clarity from ICMR, NTAGI expected soon; Imperial College research reveals impact of two doses is beginning to wear off

December 27, 2021 / 05:08 PM IST
According to the Union Health Ministry, 1.11 crore people have received two doses in India so far.  (Representational image)

According to the Union Health Ministry, 1.11 crore people have received two doses in India so far. (Representational image)


There is a crucial need for organisations such as the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) to clear the air on India’s future vaccination programme.


After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s late evening announcement on December 25, the anonymous briefing to the media--about inoculating three-crore health and frontline workers from January 10, and then giving a third dose to those who have been vaccinated twice but are over 60 and suffer from comorbidities--has managed to pose more questions than providing answers.


``I think we need to wait for details from the concerned organisations such as the ICMR and NTAGI on their detailed plan of action. I am sure they know what they are doing. But periodic calls for a `booster’ dose, smacks of gimmickry,” Vineeta Bal, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, told Moneycontrol.


Media reports on December 27 suggest that nearly three crore health and frontline workers will be eligible in January for a so-called `precaution dose’ of Covid19 vaccine, which will be administered after a gap of nine months. This will be followed by a third dose for the double-vaccinated, vulnerable populations.


The decision to keep the interval at nine months has been based on the findings of the ICMR and Translational Health and Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad.

Close

According to the Union Health Ministry, 1.11 crore people have received two doses in India so far. Officials told the media that the Cowin platform will automatically reflect who will be eligible for the precautionary dose.


Dr Samiran Panda of the ICMR told Moneycontrol: ``There is no need to worry. India has one of the most robust vaccination systems in the world. We vaccinate 30 million pregnant women every year. So just leave it to the NTAGI to do the needful.’’


The NTAGI--affiliated to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare--on its website advertises itself as ``an advisory body to assist the Government of India in developing a nation-wide policy framework for vaccines and immunization, to prioritize immunization activities and set attainable targets, identify critical gaps in policy and programme and identify studies, assessment and research areas to be addressed, to review periodic assessment of the national immunization programme, including immunization performance and disease incidence.”


Dose by any name


For Dr MC Mishra, former director of AIIMS, and currently adviser to the Sharda University, using any name is good enough, including a booster dose. ``India was under pressure to add a third or a booster dose, so it is following the right course. There are countries such as Israel, which have introduced a fourth dose, while India is still stuck at the second.’’

He also told Moneycontrol that research from some top global institutions – such as the Imperial College London, for instance – had revealed that the impact of two regular anti-corona viruses was beginning to wear off in some cases, offering an open invite to the pandemic. So, there are obvious benefits of the booster dose, particularly in view of the Omicron beginning to bare its fangs.

Ranjit Bhushan is an independent journalist and former Nehru Fellow at Jamia Millia University. In a career spanning more than three decades, he has worked with Outlook, The Times of India, The Indian Express, the Press Trust of India, Associated Press, Financial Chronicle, and DNA.
first published: Dec 27, 2021 05:08 pm
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