Several countries planning to administer booster shots but India not ready, research will take months.
By Adya Gupta
During the hearing of a petition on re-vaccination, the Central Government told Kerala High Court on Thursday that there is currently no provision for taking a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
According to ANI, the petition was submitted by Girikumar, a Kerala native, who wanted to be re-vaccinated with Covishield. He had already received two doses of Covaxin, but upon being inoculated found out that the Saudi Arabia government does not approve of the vaccine.
Centre asked the petitioner, who is a welder by profession and works in Saudi, to wait. They did so stating the reason that studies on taking the third dose are still in progress and would take months, thus, there are no guidelines yet.
According to visa regulations, Girikumar needs to return to Saudi before August 30, or there is a good chance of him losing his job.
The data dilemma
Be it to receive clearance by other countries or to enhance immunity, India does not have enough data on administering a booster dose of the Covid vaccine at the moment.
“There is no international guideline for administering the third dose of the vaccine. An overdose can lead to health problems,” said the Centre.
Even though there is no one-size-fits-all approach towards the third dose, there are several countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Israel, that are administering booster shots to fight the virus.
There are different studies that show how a booster dose leads to a higher number of protective antibodies, however, there is no data that directly suggests that these third doses are needed in India at the present.
“I don’t think we have enough data right now to say that a booster shot is needed. Even for elderly and high-risk groups, we do not have enough data. We really need to have data that gives us an idea of the protection levels the vaccines provide,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), on Saturday.
One size doesn’t fit all
Last week the US announced that third shots will be available by September 20 for all American adults who had received their last vaccinations eight months ago.
The UK is also on the path to administer booster doses in September to citizens who have already received two doses.
These decisions came after data indicated the gradual reduction in protection from the vaccines, keeping in mind the increase in cases due to the Delta variant.
However, India is not looking at booster shots with urgency. The Health Ministry noted on Saturday that while the US and UK have recently seen a sharp spike in daily cases because of the new variant, India has had a gradual decline in its daily cases.
According to Dr Guleria, India might need a booster shot “at some point in time” and can decide how they will be administered only after the vaccine has reached a “waning point”.
“Will we need it from vaccines available? Should we look at a new vaccine or the same vaccine? Should we mix the vaccines as a booster? This is the information that is still emerging,” he said when talking about the strategy for booster shots in India.
He further said that research will take months.
“Information is still emerging… it will take some more months. Possibly by the beginning of next year, we will have data on what will be the type of booster shots and who needs it,” said the AIIMS chief.
Also watch: The Science Behind the Booster Shot