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“A comprehensive policy is likely to come out based on Indian epidemiology and the pandemic situation in the country and not based on other nations. The meeting should be held in the next two weeks,” said the task force member on the developments. He said even as the policy is being readied, the thrust would, however, be on speeding up and completing the adult vaccination programme. The focus would be to ensure that at least all adult beneficiaries are administered the first dose by December 31. At present, over 80% of the adult population has received at least the first dose of the vaccine, and over 41% has got both the shots. In a recent meeting, most states had demanded booster shots for health workers. Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope, too, had exerted on the same.
Dr Samiran Panda, the head of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases Division at Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said that in the discussion on booster doses or a third shot, it is essential that one does not get diverted from the public health programme of the two doses.
“Discussions around the third dose pertain to those who, because of immunosuppressed conditions, are not able to mount enough immunity,” he told TOI. Meanwhile, experts said that health authorities should consider that early recipients —senior citizens, people with comorbidities or health and frontline workers — got their two shots within a six-week period as against the current ideal period of 84 days. As the early recipients got fully vaccinated within a short period, their antibody levels would have dipped by now and they need a booster shot soon, said experts. “I have a feeling that India will only roll out third doses for the clinically vulnerable and highly exposed once transmission starts to skyrocket again. That will be too late,’’ said public health specialist Dr Swapneil Parikh, adding that we need to start right away.
(Inputs from Mumbai)