Karnataka: Experts agree with WHO stand, say booster shot is not for all | Bengaluru News – Times of India


BENGALURU: Top vaccine scientists and virologists have concurred with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) view that Covid-19 vaccine booster doses may be needed only if there is evidence of insufficient protection against the virus over time.
In an interim statement released on Monday, WHO indicated booster doses could be considered only in immunocompromised patients, people with waning immunity or declining effectiveness of vaccines.
Dr Gagandeep Kang, top vaccine scientist, supported WHO’s view, saying the recommendations are rational, while pointing out that there are many people who are immunocompromised for one reason or the other.
“There is cumulative evidence that a third dose really helps this category of people,” Kang said. “These people are mostly patients with cancer and those on dialysis and immunosuppressant drugs who do not respond well to vaccines. Giving them a third dose after a longer interval will actually help.”
In general, for all immunisation, the longer the interval between doses, the better the immune response, see said.
WHO also emphasised the role of vaccine efficacy in taking any decision on booster doses. Dr Kang revealed that there is evidence which shows protection offered by the Chinese inactivated Covid-19 vaccine does not last long, and a booster may be required. This vaccine, however, is not in use in India.
She said WHO’s reference to waning immunity comes in the wake of the Israeli experience where older people who were given the Pfizer vaccine at shorter intervals were found to have less protection from infection and disease.
Evolving situation
“Israel seems to be an unusual situation because we are not seeing the same scenario in the UK, where Pfizer doses were administered 12 weeks apart,” she said. “We don’t know yet whether the timing made that much of a difference or whether 12 weeks is that much better than four weeks. We don’t know if we would see waning immunity in the UK too in months to come. It is an evolving situ ation.”
Dr Jacob John, renowned virologist, said the WHO document shows a national policy on booster doses must be based on epidemiological evidence.
“This is sane advice,” said Dr John. “For justification, data on the frequency of breakthrough cases [not merely infection], its severity and mortality are needed. India could commission studies as we have so much data available on computers. ICMR could collect and collate data and conduct an efficacy/ effectiveness study.”
He said if vaccine trial investigators are commissioned, they could study the data immediately.
Policy matter
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Dr MK Sudarshan, chief of Karnataka’s Covid-19 Technical Advisory Committee, said the government of India must take a decision on booster doses soon. “Booster doses in India are a policy matter. GoI must take a decision from a programmatic point of view,” said Dr Sudarshan.
As reported by TOI, Dr Sudarshan said, fearing a third wave and since they work in a high-risk environment, some healthcare workers have taken booster doses “Many doses remain unused at the end of an inoculation session and could go waste. Some medical and paramedical personnel have used these as booster shots,” he said. “Some took the dose after checking their antibody levels. However, there is no record on this. They took the doses for personal protection and at their own risk.”
Asked about healthcare professionals taking booster doses, Dr John said doctors know the risks and the benefits — at least theoretically — and can’t be blamed. “When, at the end of the day, if doses are going to waste, what is wrong in using them as booster doses?” he asked.
However, Dr Kang insisted booster doses are fine for specific people and vaccines, but not for healthy individuals. She said healthcare professionals do not require booster doses now. “I am not saying individuals or healthcare workers do not need booster doses at all. I’m only saying not now since seroprevalence is very high in India. It would make sense to take booster doses later rather than now.”





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Sagar Biswas

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