COVID-19 booster shot will be recommended in India: ICMR-NIV chief
India will "definitely recommend" booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine in future, Dr. Priya Abraham said in an interview. Dr. Abraham is the chief of the Indian Council of Medical Research's (ICMR) National Institute of Virology (NIV, Pune). Her statement comes as the United States has approved booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Here are more details on this.
'Recommendations for boosters will definitely come'
"Studies on booster dose have been going on overseas and at least seven different vaccines have been tried out for booster dose," Dr. Abraham told India Science, an OTT channel of the Science and Technology Department. "Now, the WHO has put a stop to it till more countries catch up with vaccination...But, in future, recommendations for boosters will definitely come," she added.
What is a booster dose?
A booster shot is an additional dose administered to augment the level of antibodies which may decline after a certain period of time, following the recommended number of doses of a vaccine. Most coronavirus vaccines being used around the world have a two-dose regime.
What is the Indian government's stand on it?
The Indian government says it is closely monitoring the issue of the booster shot. "We are watching the science for the need for such booster dose...Booster dose and whether there is a need for it and who will need it is a very relevant issue. Let's say it's a work in progress," Dr. VK Paul, NITI Aayog (Health) member, had earlier said.
US to start giving booster shots next month
US will begin administering COVID-19 booster shots as early as next month, health officials announced on Wednesday. They cited data showing that vaccine-generated immunity starts fading months after the initial two doses, for this decision. Eligible Americans will be able to take a booster dose eight months after receiving their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna's vaccines, according to officials.
What does the data suggest?
Studies say a booster dose may be needed. The efficacy of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine declines over time, dropping to about 84%, some four to six months after the second dose, according to company CEO Albert Bourla. Moderna officials have also flagged similar concerns. Meanwhile, data from Israel suggests a booster shot of Pfizer's vaccine can significantly improve immunity in people aged 60 and above.
But the WHO opposes boosters
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that vulnerable people around the world should be fully vaccinated on priority, before rich countries start administering boosters. Boosters are not necessary as per the data available so far, according to WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan. "We believe clearly that the data today does not indicate that boosters are needed," Swaminathan said at a recent news conference.