What The FAQ: When can you get your COVID booster dose in India and how badly do you need it?

Germany, Austria, Canada, France, the UK, Turkey, the US, Russia and a few more countries have already begun administering booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines
Pic: Edex Live
Pic: Edex Live

As more cases of the Omicron variant surface each day, states are wondering if they should start administering third shot of the vaccine or a booster shot. They have also been advocating for vaccinating children. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, during the winter session of the Parliament, said that they are waiting for recommendations from the experts and as soon as they say so, boosters will be rolled out along with vaccines for children.

We are here to find answers to the questions in your head right now:

When can we get the booster dose?

The Health Minister said that it's not about funds or about political gameplay. The government will work only on directions from the experts. “The Government spends Rs 2.5 lakh crore to give free foodgrains to the people of this country. We are giving a Rs 1.5 lakh crore subsidy to farmers. The question (of when the Government clears booster doses) is not economical. It is also not a political question,” the Health Minister said. "Our experts will take a final decision on vaccinating children and giving booster doses (to the adult population). Based on their recommendation, the Government will move forward," he said.

What are the experts saying? 

Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium or the INSACOG has in a way given a green light. They said that vaccines can be given to those who haven't received them yet and boosters can also be administered. But the statement does not say from when we can start the administration of these doses. “Vaccination of all remaining unvaccinated at-risk people and consideration of a booster dose for those 40 years of age and over, first targeting the most high-risk/high-exposure may be considered, since low levels of neutralising antibodies from current vaccines are unlikely to be sufficient to neutralise Omicron, although the risk of severe disease is still likely to be reduced,” the INSACOG said in the bulletin.

Do you really need a booster dose? Will it help? 

Most people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are relatively well-protected from serious illness and death from COVID-19. Early research on vaccines that use mRNA to protect people from the virus, like those from Pfizer and Moderna, suggest that they eventually lose some of their power against infection and serious illness, no matter the variant of the virus (like Alpha, Beta or Delta). The CDC and FDA have both recommended getting a COVID-19 booster shot if one is eligible. But now with the Omicron variant, there's a buzz around town that the vaccines are not working against Omicron. In the meanwhile, ICMR announced that Covaxin might be more effective against the new strain. Covaxin, a virion-inactivated vaccine “covers the entire virus and can work against this highly mutated new variant", said an official from Bharat Biotech.

Which countries are doling out boosters?

Germany, Austria, Canada, France, the UK, Turkey, the US, Russia and a few more countries have already begun administering booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

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