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COVID-19 booster dose drive fails to pick up, only one in five eligible adults jabbed

Meghalaya has the worst 8 percent coverage of the Covid booster dose among its eligible population, while Andhra Pradesh has the highest at 34 percent

August 31, 2022 / 11:15 AM IST

The long queues and desperation seen for COVID-19 primary vaccinations are markedly missing during the drive for booster doses, with only 15.66 crore people, or 20 percent of the 76.52 crore eligible population, turning up to get jabbed.

The poor response is despite the repeated push by the Centre to state governments to promote vaccination drive against coronavirus and appeals to the public to get the booster shot.

“We realise that most people are not taking COVID-19 booster dose seriously even when it is available for free at government hospitals, but it offers an additional level of security against the infectious disease. Therefore, all people, when their turn comes, should opt for it,” said a senior government official in the Union health ministry.

States at the top

Only seven states and Union Territories in India have seen over 30 percent of the eligible adults receiving their precaution COVID-19 shots, the latest government data shows.

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Among the states, Andhra Pradesh has seen the highest percentage of precaution dose coverage at 34 percent while Andaman and Nicobar Islands was top among union territories, at 78 percent coverage.

The other states and UTs doing better in terms of booster dose coverage include Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Ladakh, Puducherry and Sikkim.

States at the bottom 

In seven states and UTs, 10 percent or less of the eligible population have received their boosters yet.

These states and UTs include Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Chandigarh, Haryana, Goa and Punjab. In 11 other states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka among others, the coverage is less than 20 percent of the national average of the eligible population.

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In Uttar Pradesh, which has the highest 11.75 crore population eligible for precaution doses, only 22 percent have taken the jabs, while in Bihar with 5.11 crore eligible population, the coverage is only a tad better at 23 percent.

The vaccination drive

As per the government’s policy, all adults who have completed their full vaccination can receive a precautionary dose six months after their second dose. Beginning July 15, the Centre had also made booster doses available free of cost for all adults in the country at public hospitals.

Prior to that, only those above 60 years of age, healthcare and frontline workers were eligible for free doses at government centres, while the 18-59-year age group was permitted to receive paid booster shots at private vaccination centres.

Waning immunity

Experts concur with government officials, saying people should get additional security against the infectious disease.

According to Dr Ankita Baidya, consultant, infectious diseases at HCMCT Manipal Hospitals in Delhi, many patients down with Covid-19 are also getting pneumonia with lung involvement requiring ICU stay.

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“It's concerning that the people who have access and are eligible for precautionary doors or the COVID-19 booster dose of vaccination have not yet got themselves vaccinated,” she said.

Baidya added that it is important to stress on COVID-19 precautionary dose as the existing vaccines offer immunity against severe illness only.

“With time, there is waning immunity which has been studied globally as well and the virus keeps mutating but if we are vaccinated we can still stay protected against severe disease and skip the need for hospital care,” she said.

No enthusiasm for Corbevax booster either?

Starting August 12, the government has permitted COVID-19 vaccine, which is based on the protein sub-unit, Corbebax by Biological E for booster doses for those who may have taken Covishield or Covaxin earlier as their primary vaccination. This was the first heterologous or mix and match of COVID-19 vaccination permitted at the programmatic level.

Though no separate data is available on how many doses of Corbevax have been administered, the government figures do show that since July 15, a total of 85,03,008 doses of this vaccine have been administered, which comes around to 1,84,848 doses every day on average.

Given that Corbevax is also permitted for the 12-14-year age group and in its comparison, 22,10,399 doses of Covishield have been administered in that period daily on average, it seems that not many are opting for Corbevax despite the option.
Sumi Sukanya Dutta
first published: Aug 31, 2022 11:15 am
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