Experts remain more keen on protecting immunocompromised children with vaccination, for which guidelines are likely to be submitted by the end of this week.
Sources said the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) for Covid-19 has assessed data, which shows high seropositivity in the country’s population. Some experts, however, are of the view that healthcare workers (who were among the first to be vaccinated), those who are immunocompromised, and the elderly may have waning immunity and can be at higher risk, particularly in the wake of the emergence of new variants. “The NTAGI will wait for the WHO’s guidance on the issue and deliberate again,” an official said.
The World Health Organisation’s scientific advisory board is also scheduled to meet on December 7 to deliberate on the issue of additional dose for those who might be vulnerable to severe infection.
Officials said at present there is no concrete evidence to suggest waning immunity as far as vaccines in India are concerned. “However, we are watching the data closely, including the trend in hospitalised patients or that of re-infection. Such decisions cannot be taken in a hurry just because there is a new variant,” the official said. The fact that most people here are young and have a good level of immunity is also relevant, he added.
Recently, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG ) said low levels of neutralising antibodies from existing vaccines may not be sufficient to neutralise the new variant Omicron, suggesting a booster dose can be considered for people above 40, prioritising those at high-risk or high-exposure.
The government maintains there are adequate stocks of vaccine but a decision on booster doses and vaccination for kids will be taken on scientific advice.
As on Monday morning, there were over 21 crore unutilised doses of vaccine available with states and Union territories. Besides, the government is expecting at least 31 crore doses of Covishield and Covaxin to be available by the end of this month. While 85% of the country’s adult population — that is currently eligible for Covid vaccination — has received at least one dose and 50% are fully vaccinated with both doses, the government’s focus currently is to maximise vaccination coverage and ensure all adults are fully vaccinated as per their schedule. There are around 12 crore people who are overdue for their second dose.
Overall, around 128.76 crore doses of Covid jabs were administered in the country till Monday, 10.30pm. This includes 78.85 lakh doses given during the day.