Recently, the government said that vaccinating the entire adult population with two doses would be a higher priority than administering booster shots.

A collage of Basavaraj Bommai, Rahul Gandhi, Mahua Moitra
news Coronavirus vaccine Wednesday, December 22, 2021 - 17:23

As the world faces the threat of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, several studies have suggested that the existing COVID-19 vaccines may not be effective against the variant. In light of this, and as a growing number of countries are reporting Omicron as the dominant variant of the virus, calls to administer a booster dose of the vaccine are being made, including from the World Health Organisation.

In India as well, a few politicians have sought the Union government to provide citizens with a booster shot, especially as the Omicron count in the country has crossed 200. Earlier in December, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had called on Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya after the first Omicron case was reported in the state. He discussed the demand for a booster shot with the Minister, and at the time, the Union government had said that a decision on the same would be taken after discussions with an expert committee.

Since then, the government’s response has hardly changed. The Union government on December 14 told the Delhi High Court that the National Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) and National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-l9 (NEGVAC) were still deliberating on the “possible need and justification” on the booster dose, while the court was hearing a batch of petitions on the national COVID-19 crisis. More recently, the government said that vaccinating the entire adult population with two doses would be a higher priority than administering booster shots.

Read: Covishield booster dose: Expert panel seeks local clinical trial data for approval

However, more politicians have been batting for the same. On Tuesday, December 21, Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra tweeted, “Let us start with booster shots please. Waiting for everyone to be vaccinated before we start boosters is like waiting for poverty to be eradicated before starting development work.” Her tweet comes after she said in Parliament, “There is complete silence on third booster shots for the vulnerable, as well as vaccines for children.”

Read: Days after favouring booster shot for 40+, govt panel says more experiments required

On Thursday, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also sought the government to provide information on booster shots. He said that administering the booster dose and the vaccination of children has started in many countries, and the Union government should also take a decision in this regard. Gehlot said sick persons, or those 60 years of age or above should get a booster dose on priority.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also slammed the government on its silence regarding the third shot. "Majority of our population is still not vaccinated. When will GOI begin booster shots? #VaccinateIndia," he said on Twitter on Thursday.

A new study in The Lancet journal has pointed out that the protection offered by the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which is sold in India as Covishield, declines after three months of receiving two doses of the preventive vaccine. The findings drawn from datasets in Brazil and Scotland suggest that booster programmes are needed to help maintain protection from severe disease in those vaccinated with AstraZeneca. The researchers analysed data for two million people in Scotland and 42 million people in Brazil who had been inoculated with the vaccine.

With PTI inputs