Amid detection of a suspected case of Covid-19 variant XE in Mumbai recently, the Centre on Friday announced that coronavirus booster shots will be available to all adults from Sunday at private vaccination centres.
The order means that unlike the booster shots announced for healthcare workers, frontline staff and those above 60, the third jab will be available to all adults at a cost.
The Union Health Ministry, however, maintained that the ongoing free vaccination programme through Government vaccination centres for first and second doses as well as precaution doses to healthcare workers, frontline workers and 60+ population would continue and would be accelerated.
So far, about 96 per cent of all 15+ population in the country have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose while about 83 per cent of 15+ population have received both doses, said the Ministry.
“It has been decided that precaution dose of Covid vaccines will be made available to 18+ population group through private vaccination centres from 10th April (Sunday), 2022. All those who are more than 18 years of age and have completed 9 months after the administration of the second dose, would be eligible for precaution dose.
“This facility would be available in all private vaccination centres,” said the Ministry in a statement here.
Announcing the same, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya noted that it is about “Adding an extra layer of safety.” Precaution dose is the third dose of the same vaccine that one has been administered against the SARS-CoV-2 infection. The necessity of a third dose was felt worldwide with the emergence of newer variants of the virus, while the immunity produced by two doses of the vaccine wanes gradually.
However, health experts feel that ‘precaution dose’ cannot replace other Covid appropriate behaviour.
“It is important to vaccinate all adults with the third dose or booster dose so that we see fewer hospitalisations. However, masks and social distancing remain major precautionary measures to keep the virus at bay,” said Dr Rahul Bhargava, head of Haematology Department of Fortis Hospital in Gurgaon.
Dr Rajinder Dhamija, Director of the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) in Delhi, too, also echoed a similar view. “One should not let his/her guard down even after having taken the third booster or precaution dose,” he said.
“Yes, the vaccine has the potential to reduce the severity of the infection, but masks and social distancing besides washing hands need to be followed religiously. Those having co-morbidity should be extra careful,” he cautioned.
Head of the research cell at the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Kochi, Dr Rajeev Jayadevan added that techniques like contact tracing and testing should not be done away with as yet.
Dr Jayadevan also said that the third dose of vaccination is being used across the world to reduce the chances of contracting the infection and added that it could be the reason behind extending the precaution dose to all adults.
The country has given 1.85 billion vaccine doses among its population of 1.35 billion. Of these, 82% are Covishield. Other vaccines used in India are the domestically developed Covaxin and Corbevax, and Russia’s Sputnik V.