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Will Booster Dose Mark The Next Phase Of Vaccination Journey In India?

January 13, 2022 / 09:41 PM IST

Vaccination was identified as the only solution to protect people from the Covid-19 pandemic and this led to a massive vaccination drive around the world. In January 2021, the National Covid-19 vaccination drive, the largest of its kind, was launched in India. To date, 134 crore people have received at least one dose of which 51.8 crore people have been fully vaccinated. To support the government in this mission, Network 18 Sanjeevani - A Shot of Life, a CSR initiative by Federal Bank, was launched to spread awareness and encourage citizens to get vaccinated. Launched on 7th April 2021, this initiative has collaborated with Apollo 24x7 and worked with government agencies and influencers to spread awareness about the need for vaccination and arranged vaccination camps in the worst Covid-19 hit districts of India.

Sanjeevani Telethon

The first phase of Sanjeevani culminated after traveling to five cities with a telethon on December 12th, 2021. The four-hour event was hosted by Network 18 anchors Shereen Bhan, Anand Narasimhan, and Zakka Jacob who were joined by august invitees including well-known personalities like the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister Of Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Thakur, Cabinet Minister of Tourism and Environment for the Government of Maharashtra Aaditya Thackeray, Indian Olympics Gold Medallist Neeraj Chopra, celebrities like Sara Ali Khan and Chief Ministers of the states that the Sanjeevani campaign had covered. Other bigwigs who took part included Sanjeevani’s anthem composer and singer, Shankar Mahadevan, Federal Bank CEO Shyam Srinivasan, Serum Institute of India’s CEO Adar Poonawala, representatives from partners United Way of Mumbai and Apollo 24x7. The telethon showcased the highlights of the achievements over eight months including the report cards of each city, stories of impacted families, saluting the Champions of Change and the Citizen Changemakers and culminating in a reveal of the initiative’s plans for the next phase.

The Omicron Variant Scare

The discovery of the Omicron variant of the virus on 24th November has raised concerns about the possibility of a third wave. This variant is a different and more contagious mutation compared to the previous versions. WHO has already marked it as a virus of concern. A point to be noted is that complete vaccination using Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines has not been able to resist the Omicron variant since they generate a lower level of antibodies against this variant.

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Is a Booster Dose next on the Agenda?

This brings us to another important question. The healthcare workers who completed their second dose of vaccine in February 2021 have completed 10 months post-vaccination. It is not yet clear whether booster doses would be necessary to increase the immunity period. The primary objective of the National Covid-19 vaccination program is to complete the administration of 2 doses to the entire population. The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization and National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 are taking into scientific evidence and debating on the need and justification for booster doses. The final decision will be taken based on recommendations received from expert bodies. Mr Adar Poonawala, CEO, Serum Institute of India, while participating in the Grand Finale of the Sanjeevani Telethon on 12th December mentioned that their facilities are ready in case there is any need for further vaccines. Oxford and AstraZeneca are studying the possibility of creating an omicron variant-specific vaccine that may be used as a booster dose but they are waiting for further data on the spread of the variant.

Need to complete the Country-wide vaccination

It is imperative to complete both doses of the vaccine to remain safe and avoid serious impact in case of infection. The only way to keep the country safe is by vaccinating the full population as soon as possible. Studies show that 58% of the unvaccinated population still suffer from vaccine hesitancy. The Sanjeevani Initiative has been working actively to raise the awareness levels across the length and breadth of the country, assisting people with vaccine registration, arranging transportation to reach vaccination centers, and strengthening vaccination centers.

Over the last nine months, Sanjeevani became a nationwide movement that impacted millions of lives by raising awareness about the vaccine, encouraging people to get jabbed, and assisting with the vaccine registration. It is possible that once the majority of the population is vaccinated, a third booster dose may be needed to extend the immunity for a longer period but for now “Poora Tika” remains in focus. And to encourage people to get full vaccination, Sanjeevani Telethon voiced “Poora Tika Laga”.
first published: Dec 21, 2021 06:34 pm
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