NEW DELHI: An expert panel which will decide on recommending COVID-19 booster doses for the most vulnerable people in India could come up with its suggestions as early as next week, sources have told this newspaper.
Officials in the Union health ministry said the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is scheduled to meet early next week where a possible policy to offer additional Covid-19 shots to the immune-compromised and those with serious comorbidities will be discussed.
"There is an emerging understanding that quite a sizable chunk of the population may need additional shots even after completing the two-dose schedule. However, only the expert panel can specify who needs the booster shots and how long after having received the second dose," said an official.
The development comes amid fresh researches that even though some of the COVID vaccines may be capable of triggering immune response by up to one year or more, antibodies against SARS CoV2 may be dwindling swiftly by six months after the second dose.
Studies have also shown that the existing COVID vaccines, though potent, are far from being perfect and while they reduce the risks of hospitalisation and severe disease, they do not eliminate them. Globally, 38 countries, including the US, Germany, Austria, Canada and France, are administering booster doses. The booster doses delivered in the US so far are the highest.
However, the decision to deliver booster shots has been criticised by the World Health Organization and last week, its Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called it a “scandal” as poorer countries continue to wait for the first jab.
"It makes no sense to give boosters to healthy adults or to vaccinate children, when health workers, older people and other high-risk groups around the world are still waiting for their first dose. The exception, as we have said, is immunocompromised individuals," he had said in a statement.
In India, there have been reporters of several private hospitals delivering boosters to healthcare workers - who were among the first to receive COVID shots - without registering on CoWIN.
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