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NEW DELHI: The Central government on Friday permitted much awaited precaution or booster dose for all adults above 18 years of age from Sunday onwards (10th April). Now, people who are fully vaccinated and have completed 9 months after they received their second dose will be eligible for booster dose.

Presently, only healthcare workers, frontline workers, and people above 60 years of age are eligible beneficiaries to receive precaution dose popularly known as booster dose.

“Adding an extra layer of safety! Precaution Dose to be available to 18+ age group from 10th April, 2022, at Private Vaccination Centres. All 18+ who have completed 9 months after administration of 2nd dose, would be eligible for Precaution Dose," Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Dr Mansukh Mandaviya said in a tweet on Friday.

The announcement for booster dose comes at a time when suspicion of a new covid mutant- ‘XE variant’ has raised an alarm bell for the Union Health Ministry after Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) claimed to have detected one such case of XE variant in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

“It has been decided that precaution dose of COVID vaccines will be made available to population above 18 years of age from 10th April (Sunday) onwards. All those who are more than 18 years of age and have completed 9 months after the administration of second dose would be eligible for precaution dose. This facility would be available in all Private Vaccination Centres," the health ministry said in a statement.

On 10th January, the Union government started to administer booster dose in a phase wise manner to the eligible population groups like healthcare workers, frontline workers and elderly population above 60 years of age having co-morbid conditions. The same vaccine of the primary vaccination regime is being given as booster dose. Recently, the health ministry permitted precautionary doses for the entire population above 60 years of age.

So far about 96% of all individuals above 15 years of age have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose while about 83% people in the same age group have received both the doses.

Under the national vaccination drive, India’s has administered more than 185.38 Crore vaccine doses so far.

As on Friday, more than 2,40,48,124 (2.4 crore) precaution doses have also been administered to healthcare workers, frontline workers and elderly above 60 years of age. Out of these, 4515341 healthcare workers, 6977654 frontline workers and 12555129 elderly population have received their booster shots respectively.

In a similar fashion, over 21128977 (2.11 Crore) children accounting to about 45% in the age group of 12-14 years have received their first dose of covid vaccine.

According to the health ministry, the on-going free vaccination programme would continue at the government COVID-19 Vaccination Centres (CVC) for first and second dose to the eligible population as well as precaution dose to healthcare workers, frontline workers and entire population above 60 years of age.

Mint reported on 22 March about the government’s plan to open up covid-19 booster doses to all adults.

What booster dose exactly do?

In a recent interview to Mint, National Institute of Virology (NIV, Pune) Director, Dr Priya Abraham said that precaution or booster dose of a vaccine boosts immunity in the body further by activating the memory cells to produce more antibodies against covid.

“When you give a booster dose, its boosts the immunity, a person has received from the primary vaccination. It actually recalls the memory cells in the body. When we give booster dose after the primary vaccination regime, it awakens these memory cells in the body to start putting out more antibody. They send signals to other lymphocytes. So, booster doses augment the pre-existing immune defense," Dr Abraham told Mint.

Experts Welcome

Dr Vikas Maurya, Head of Pulmonary Department at Fortis Hospital said, “Booster dose is just like any other vaccine. For example- we have boosters for flu and pneumonia vaccine. Covid-19 is also a respiratory virus which then changes. Therefore, it is important to give boosters, specifically during pandemic time. So, you are giving the booster, you are just boosting the immunity. Then you don’t have severe disease, mortality and complications. And even if you have it despite the vaccine, you will in minor form and you will be asymptomatic. I think the government has taken a good step to open booster dose for all adults and especially benefit those patients who are at high risk having co-morbidities.

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