The doctor heading India's vaccine rollout today defended the decision to delay a rollout of booster doses in the country. ''What is true for Israel, for Europe or North America may not be truly applicable here,'' said Dr. NK Arora who heads India's vaccine task force.
By the time the second wave of Covid began ebbing, ''67 per cent of people were showing evidence of infection - natural infection.'' What's more, data from October indicates that between 80-85% of India's population, including children, ''are showing infection which means natural infection because adults have received vaccines.'' This means that ''a very large proportion of our population has already contracted [the] infection.'' The ongoing process of vaccination continues to provide additional protection to Indian citizens.
Evidence of the extent of immunity prevalent in India became clear when ''the number of cases declined despite festivals'' when large gatherings frequently broke Covid discipline across the country during Diwali and Dussehra.
A decision on 94 crore booster doses is also ''not something that can be done overnight'' and should not be based on a panic reaction around the arrival of the new Omicron strain of Covid which has recently come to light. ''We are waiting for the next two weeks or so when labs across the country, including some of our own labs, are working on the effectiveness of immune response elicited by current vaccines'' to the new Covid strain.
While there will be a comprehensive policy within two weeks on the roll out of an additional vaccine dose to those who are immuno-compromised, India's national priority will be to ensure that all eligible citizens get two doses. Between 12-15 crore people in India have not received a single dose, according to Dr. NK Arora while approximately 30 crores have not received their second dose.
India's national policy on booster doses is in stark contrast with what several other nations have started doing. Today, the independent body which advises the UK government on vaccines has said that everyone between the age of 18 and 39 needs to be offered a booster dose of anti-Covid vaccines in order to tackle the potentially more transmissible Omicron variant now being detected around the world.