Covid-19 Vaccination: Do you need a booster dose? Here’s what experts say

The government has given green light to Health Care Workers (HWC) or Front-Line Workers (FLW) and citizens aged above 60 years for booster dose administration.

Covid-19 vaccine booster dose sputnik covishield covaxin
Currently, all 3 boosters: Covishield, Covaxin, and Sputnik Light have shown promising results against the Omicron variant. (Image: Reuters)

As another wave of COVID starts to ebb, the world once again hopes to return to its normal lives. While the healthcare industry is still recovering from the aftershocks of the third wave of omicron after the second wave of the delta variant. Although Omicron was comparatively less life-threatening, it was still highly transmissible and affected a lot of families. Since the start of the pandemic, our lifestyle has undergone many changes. Wearing a mask has now become a part of our attire and carrying pocket sanitizers has become a necessity. Although these measures provide us with considerable protection against the virus, the vaccine remains the most effective public health measure against infection and even more effective against death from the virus. The third wave was milder, one of the reasons being that a large proportion of the population had been vaccinated in India

India’s COVID19 vaccination drive started on 16 January 2021 has shown a positive turnout till now. Within one year, the government was able to roll out and administer 1.73 billion doses including 2nd and precautionary booster doses. According to WHO, as of 22nd February 2022, in India, 58.3% of the population is double vaccinated while 72.3% of people have only got their first dose. Now, health officials and the public at large are heavily leaning towards the protection conferred by booster shots, called precautionary doses in India. But what are precautionary and booster shots and who all need them

According to Dr. A.M Deshmukh, President, Microbiologist Society, India, “Immunity offered by the original vaccine regimen reduces over time and is refreshed with a booster dose. So, a booster dose is a name that we give to an additional shot beyond the initial dose to refresh the efficacy rate against any type of pathogen whether it is bacteria or a virus.  Given how there are new variants like Delta and Omicron being identified, we need to get boosters and contribute towards building a larger herd immunity. Currently, all 3 boosters: Covishield, Covaxin, and Sputnik Light have shown promising results against the Omicron variant. It is very important for the people working in environments like Schools, Hospitals, or any Public Service Office where the risk of community-acquired or nosocomial infections is high, to maintain their antibody count to protect adequately against the infection.“

The government has given green light to Health Care Workers (HWC) or Front-Line Workers (FLW) and citizens aged above 60 years for booster dose administration. Furthermore, to get the third dose at least 9 months after the second dose. 

In terms of the boosters that are available, there are mainly 3 vaccines that are currently being used in India.

  1. COVISHIELD

Covishield utilizes modified spike proteins from a chimpanzee adenovirus – ChAdOx1virus to elicit immunity in the body. During its booster trials, Covishield showed promising results. When given as a booster shot, it increased the immune response against Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma & Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variants. 

  1. COVAXIN

Covaxin is developed with Whole-Virion Inactivated Vero Cell-derived technology, which means that it contains inactivated viruses that cannot infect but give protection to a vaccinated person. Results from a preliminary analysis of an ongoing safety and immunogenicity trial showed 90% of individuals when boosted with Covaxin, had efficacy being maintained for 6 months. The boosted subjects showed high neutralizing activity against the Omicron variant as well.

  1. SPUTNIK LIGHT

The recently approved Sputnik Light is based on recombinant human adenovirus (medium-sized, nonenveloped) serotype number 26 (the first component of Sputnik V). Based on the data collected by the Spallanzani Institute and results of previous studies, heterologous (“mix and match”) boosting with Sputnik Light tends to increase other vaccines’ efficacy and extend the booster protection period as optimal adenoviral platform configuration provides better protection against Omicron and other variants. A one-shot vaccination regimen of Sputnik Light provides for ease of administration, helps to increase efficacy, duration of other vaccines, when used as a booster, shot, and complement a country’s vaccination drive efforts.

Dr. Sanjiv Kumar, a former Senior Advisor at UNICEF and Executive Director at National Health Systems Resource Centre added- “The third booster dose in India is called the “Precautionary dose”. The government has announced the administration of a third booster dose due to the rapid increase in the number of covid cases and the emergence of new variants. It is a precautionary dose to safeguard the population against the ongoing third wave and a possible fourth wave. While it is still not mandatory to get a booster dose, those eligible must get it. This ensures protection against infection and even higher protection against severe symptoms or hospitalization. The government needs to look at local data for heterologous (“mix and match”) boosting as being done in most other countries.  Let’s make sure we get through this pandemic safely together.”

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