“India doesn’t have any shortage of vaccines. Then, why delay the vaccination? We now know that vaccine-induced immunity against the coronavirus wanes over a period, from six to eight months,” Dr Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis C-Doc, said.
Nearly all adults and a significant number of children aged 15 years and above have been fully vaccinated in India. This means they have received two doses of the vaccines approved against Covid-19, primarily Covishield and Covaxin for adults and Corbevax for kids.
In January, the government had allowed an additional dose of the vaccines for healthcare workers and elderly with comorbidities. Recently, it was clarified that anyone above 60 years of age could take the third or booster dose.
Countries like Israel, the US and the UK have already administered three doses of the vaccines against Covid-19 to its citizens and they are now moving towards allowing an additional fourth dose of the vaccine in view of the surge in cases.
Dr N K Mehra, noted immunologist and former dean of AIIMS told TOI that booster dose is needed because protection provided by the initial two doses of the vaccine tends to weaken over time, which could be anywhere between six and eight months.
“Booster dose or additional dose is needed for many other such illnesses also. For example, annual shots are recommended to the immunocompromised and elderly people for the common flu virus,” Dr Mehra explained. He added that in addition to the elderly, the government should allow booster doses in India for anyone who has comorbidities.
“Booster dose may be considered for those above the age of 45, for people with comorbidities or those with weak immunity, for example, patients suffering from cancer, tuberculosis and kidney dysfunction. Some of the clinical trials suggest it should be given five months after full vaccination,” Dr Suresh Kumar, medical director of Lok Nayak Hospital, said.
Over the last few weeks, many countries like Hong Kong, parts of China, South Korea, Germany, the US and the UK are witnessing significant surge in Covid-19 cases and even hospitalisations. Some of these countries, for example the UK, have high vaccination coverage including that of the booster doses. Why are they still getting so many cases?
According to Dr Mehra, vaccines protect against serious illness and deaths. “SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is new and there are many things that we are learning while we study about the patterns,” he added.
India has already witnessed three massive waves of the infection since January 2020, when the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the country. At present, the daily cases have reduced to about 2,000.
“The likelihood of a fourth wave in India is less. However, we have to be prepared. Covid protocols, for example wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing, should be followed wherever possible. Also, those eligible should get vaccinated at the earliest so that as and when necessary, immunisation can be scaled up further to save lives,” Dr Rommel Tickoo, director, internal medicine at Max Saket.