scorecardIndia mulls 2nd Covid booster even as coverage of first dose remains feeble
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India mulls 2nd Covid booster even as coverage of first dose remains feeble

India mulls 2nd Covid booster even as coverage of first dose remains feeble
LifeScience4 min read
  • The Indian immunisation panel is discussing a fourth dose of Covid vaccine, or a second booster dose.
  • India started its booster or precaution dose drive in January 2022 and has so far inoculated over 15 crore Indians in the age group of 15-59 years.
  • Only 28% of the eligible population in India have received the first booster dose so far.
Covid-19 cases are once again rising across various parts of the world and the Indian government has already started taking precautionary measures. As India has also reported cases of new variants like XBB.1.5, BF.7, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) is considering to roll out a second booster dose or fourth dose of Covid vaccine for the Indian population.

“Discussions have started on the matter of opening a second booster among members of the technical group. There is a section that is keen on allowing another booster dose. They will be minutely going through all the scientific data before making any recommendations,” an expert on one of the committees of NTAGI said.

Last week, doctors of Indian Medical Association (IMA), in a discussion with the union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya, suggested that the government must approve a fourth Covid-19 vaccine for people.

New Zealand is one such country which has approved a second booster dose for people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The second booster dose is offered at least six months after the previous dose or three months after a COVID-19 infection.
Booster dose coverage
Amid Covid fears, the government is also taking steps to boost the coverage of the first booster dose in the country. India started its booster or precaution dose drive in January 2022 and has given 15 crore booster doses to people in the age group of 15-59 years; and over 69 crore in the age group of 60 plus years, according to data by ministry of health.

As of January 6, 2023, around 92 crore adults have taken their first dose, while 86 crore vaccines have been administered a second dose in India. Additionally, over 6 crore children aged between 15-18 years have received the first dose, and over 5 crore children in this age group have received the second dose.

In the age group of 12 to 14, around 4 crore children have received the first dose, and 3 crore have received the second dose.

Other than Covaxin (by Bharat Biotech) and Covishield (by Serum Insitute of India), the government has also approved two more vaccines — Corbevax (by Biological E) and a nasal vaccine named as iNCOVACC (by Bharat Biotech) as booster dose.
People reluctant to take booster dose
Even as discussions around the fourth vaccine are going on, people in various states are reluctant to get their precaution doses. In fact, as per reports, currently only 28% of the eligible population in India has taken the first booster dose.

The West Bengal health department also saw the number of booster dose nosedive, which led to 80,000 Covaxin vaccines expiring by December last year. As per IANS, the WB health department said that over seven crore people went for the first dose, but the number slid down for the second dose. However, when it came to the third dose aka the booster dose, the number fell to just 1.5 crore.

The department official also said this reluctance of people will further lead to more expiration of Covid-19 vaccines in January.

A LocalCircles survey also revealed that 64% of Indians are reluctant to take the booster dose of Covid vaccine. The major reason cited by people is rising cases of heart attacks in young people.

However, as cases are rising the demand for Covid-19 vaccine seems to be surging and in fact, states like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh reported a vaccine shortage.

"Since the Covid cases had dropped drastically, people had started taking Covid-19 lightly and were less enthusiastic in taking booster doses, so the government, too, was keeping a low stock. As of Monday (December 26) there are 35,000 vaccine bottles available with the state government," said Nilam Patel, additional director (Health), government of Gujarat.

Patel further said, “Till the first week of December (2022), on an average 3,000 vaccinations were taking place on a daily basis but since December 15, all of a sudden, people were turning up in large numbers to take the booster dose."

Similarly, the health department of Uttar Pradesh also reported that four government vaccine centres ran out of Covid vaccines, on Wednesday, January 4. However, the department has placed a fresh order of the Covid-19 vaccines and expects it to come by next week.

"More than 10 lakh vaccines will be arriving in the state shortly to fulfill the demand across the state. We are also monitoring the COVID-19 situation," Brajesh Pathak, Deputy Chief Minister of UP told PTI.

A new report also reveals that around 11 types of Covid-19 variant were found in India, when testing international passengers at airports, seaports and landports between December 24 and January 3.

(With inputs from PTI and IANS)

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