Completing fight against COVID in India: Why adults should not ignore precautionary dose

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The mortality rate because of COVID has come down but, we should not go away from taking the necessary precautions

India has been successfully administering the COVID-19 vaccination drive. In terms of the primary two doses of COVID vaccine, India has crossed a milestone of 215 crore which definitely deserves appreciation. It has been possible because of the different vaccination campaigns by the Government of India such as ‘Har Ghar Dastak’ or Vaccine Mahotsav’ – these campaigns were fundamental in terms of inoculating populations in a very short period and it is also because all citizens of India have come forward, they were aware about how vaccination can help them to be safe from the pandemic.

The mortality rate because of COVID has come down but we should not go away from taking the necessary precautions. Booster doses are important to boost the waning immunity and strengthen the body’s ability to fight a virus or a variant of concern. Even after the double doses of the vaccine, it is crucial for every adult to get jabbed with the booster or precautionary dose to restore the vaccine efficiency. A study conducted by the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune has shown that the antibody levels in an individual usually wane after six months of the two doses of the COVID vaccination. In order to address the prevailing hesitancy for COVID booster doses among the eligible population of India, on 15 July, the Government of India launched a special 75-day free booster vaccination drive for all aged 18 and beyond to ensure maximum number of booster shots.

Various studies suggest that all three boosters: Covishield, Covaxin, and Sputnik Light have shown promising results. Covishield utilizes a spike protein from a chimpanzee adenovirus which is ChAdOx1virus and during its booster trials, it has increased the body’s immune response against Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gama and the recent Omicron variants as well. The Covaxin booster has shown almost 90 per cent efficacy and it has significantly contributed to reducing the chances of reinfection. The booster dose of Sputnik, which is known as Sputnik Light is based on recombinant human adenovirus. Sputnik Light as a booster has shown over 83 per cent efficacy against the infection and it is over 94 per cent effective against the severity of the disease and chances of hospitalisation.

As of now, 35 per cent of the 16.80 crore population aged 60 years and above along with 20 per cent of the eligible population (18-59 years) in India have taken the precautionary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine so far. In terms of the precautionary doses, our country is lagging after so much effort from the government because of rumours around booster shots that might elevate the risk of a heart attack. But there is no scientific evidence to establish this fact – except for some misleading information that spread over social media platforms. Experts across the world suggest that COVID boosters are not only safe, but especially people with pre-existing heart conditions should also consider getting jabbed with the boosters as early as possible because that would reduce the risk of them getting re-infected with the coronavirus.

The citizens of India should now be aware that the 75-day long free booster dose campaign ‘COVID vaccination Amrit Mahotsava’ is approaching towards its end date. It is high time for every eligible individual to get their booster shots without further delay. The government has not mandated the booster shots yet but that should not imply that we can lower our protection against the novel coronavirus. Wearing a mask in public should be strictly followed. Booster dose is a necessity, and government should make it compulsory instead of administering it on a voluntary basis.

The author is a public health expert. Views are personal.

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