Home >Science >Health >Do we need a booster dose policy for covid-19 vaccines?

A booster shot of a covid-19 vaccine refers to an additional dose given to a person after the administration of the recommended doses—two in the case of most covid jabs—of the vaccine. Mint explains the debate over booster shots and the possible benefits.

What is a covid-19 vaccine booster shot?

A booster vaccine dose helps raise antibody levels after the primary immunization. The SARS-CoV-2 is prone to mutations that create more dangerous variants, some of which have become established in several countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the scientific community and regulators are actively monitoring whether current vaccines can continue protecting people from emerging variants of the virus. Many companies are developing vaccines to protect against a range of variants, and it is likely that booster shots with these vaccines will increase protection against known variants.

What does the Indian government say?

The government’s vaccine advisory bodies have not made any specific recommendation for a booster dose. The health ministry has said there is at present no recommendation from WHO either. Covid-19 vaccines have been developed very recently; therefore, scientific evidence is still evolving globally regarding the duration of protection, the government has argued. In India, several states have requested booster shots for their healthcare workers as it has been more than six months since they received the recommended doses of a vaccine, and their immunity may be wearing off.

The vaccination drive
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The vaccination drive

How long does a vaccine protect a person?

The level of immunity can be ascertained by measuring visible antibodies. Also, the body develops invisible immunity in the form of T-cells with memory power, meaning whenever the same virus tries to re-enter, the body guards against it. Government officials say like other vaccines, covid vaccine immunity also will last for at least six months.

Can a booster dose be of a different brand?

Administering different vaccines in the two doses, or in a booster dose, is called interchangeability. India is among the few countries where such interchangeability is allowed. It can be accepted or recognized only for three reasons which are: If it improves immune power; eases the programme of vaccine delivery; and safety is ensured. The government’s vaccine advisory groups have said that interchangeability should not be driven by vaccine scarcity as vaccination is purely a scientific matter.

What do vaccine experts say?

Since vaccine trials began just a year ago, and the roll-out even later, there is limited data on how long the protection lasts and whether a booster shot would help, WHO has said. A US health advisory group is considering whether fully vaccinated Americans with weak immunity need a booster shot. The European Medicines Agency has said it is too early to say. The UK is preparing to deliver booster shots from September. Bharat Biotech is conducting trials for Covaxin third does. Pfizer has said it is seeking emergency nod for a booster shot.

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