- The Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus is still prevalent across the globe and is indisputable. Several countries are in the grip of Covid waves is also apparent though low hospitalization and fatality resulting from the dominant variant in circulation are palpable. This is largely owing to the availability of vaccine bouquets that have ensured the population inoculated with the two doses is less vulnerable to the dreaded virus. India as a nation has done exceptionally well in the last year or so vis-à-vis administering vaccines to its eligible citizens in quelling the virus menace from reaching unprecedented levels. For a country of 1.35 billion people, the humongous task of administering vaccines to a high majority of citizens, with at least a dose, really deserves accolades.
PC: Chayil Champion
- However, the extremely volatile and unpredictable nature of the virus should caution the authorities as well as citizens from letting our guard down yet. It is widely known how the virus keeps mutating perpetually leading to a deadly variant striking the unguarded. Experiences of the past establish this fact. Thus, it becomes incumbent to exercise utmost caution and welcome apprehension for some more time to come without allowing the economic activities to encounter unwanted disruptions. Few measures on the vaccination front would be useful for due consideration by the Union Health Ministry. The move to reduce the duration between the second dose and the booster shot to 3 months for international travelers is most welcome though.
- The Union Government should also consider reducing the general 9-month gap between second dose and boosters for there are millions of eligible citizens falling under this category. Importantly, ramping up messaging highlighting how precaution doses would help in developing immunity to fight the virus should be undertaken with purpose and intent. Looking at how some of the countries with advanced vaccination programs administer boosters would be a revelation. One significant standout is that these countries have much shorter durations. The US CDC prescribes the first booster for all adults five months after the primary series and a second booster for those over 50 or those who are immunocompromised, four months after the first booster. The UK encourages the first booster three months after the second dose.
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- While India’s Covid trajectory has diverged from other nations in the months after the third wave in January, there’s no room for complacency. Data from 2015-16 Demographic and Health Survey of households indicates that 42% of diabetes and 56% of hypertension patients are unaware of their condition. These comorbidities are a key reason to encourage all adults to take boosters. Vaccine supplies are plentiful now with over 17.5 crore doses lying unutilized. Since many people are assuming without evidence that the Covid threat has passed, the low offtake of boosters isn’t surprising. Worryingly, just over 12.5 lakh of the eligible 6 crore plus adults between 18 and 59 years have taken the boosters. Easing and ramping up boosters should be prioritized without any exception. Complacency at this stage could prove to be counterproductive.