COVID-19 vaccine booster shots: As many countries around the world are introducing booster shots for COVID-19 vaccine, the Union Government of India has yet to take a stand on the issue. Now, the Delhi High Court has asked the Centre to apprise it of its stance on the issue, adding that the decision on booster shots cannot be made on the basis of economics. The court also cited examples of the United States and European countries, which are permitting as well as encouraging the administration of booster shots to strengthen the waning immunity among those who are fully vaccinated.
The court asked the Centre to submit a timeline of the proposed rollout of booster shots, if such shots were to become necessary.
Delhi High Court noted the media reports and medical opinions and the conflict between them. It also noted that experts in India, including ICMR head Dr Balram Bhargava and AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, were of the view that a booster shot was not immediately needed and that there was not sufficient scientific evidence that supported the reported benefits of booster shots. However, it still said that Centre’s stand on not taking a decision on the issue could be based on economic considerations like the high cost that it would have to incur to provide this dose to the large population. It also noted that it indeed would be a costly affair since the Centre has been providing the doses to a significant part of the population for free.
Still, it said, this could not be a situation where the country was overly conservative, as that could lead to another second wave-like situation with India losing out on the advantage of its massive vaccination drive.
The court, which has been monitoring the situation in Delhi with regard to COVID-19, also said that many vulnerable members of the society are anxious to know if they would need to get a booster shot administered and when the same would be permitted. It also cited reports that said that many doses of vaccines were lying unused, of which many could expire in some time.
It also mentioned the debate around vaccination of children under the age of 18 years, which is being carried out extensively in many developed countries.
It is important to note here that while the debate around the requirement of booster shot is indeed a necessary one, the developed nations are also being criticised for administering booster shots to its meagre population after they have been fully vaccinated. The WHO has also criticised high-income countries for vaccinating adolescents and children and providing booster shots to their population, while many other countries are grappling with vaccine shortage. It also said, “Introducing booster doses should be firmly evidence-driven and targeted to the population groups in greatest need,”
Now, ICMR chief has said that as of now, no scientific evidence supports the requirement of booster doses to enhance protection against COVID-19.
Considering these aspects, it can easily be understood that the best use of India’s massive vaccine production capacity would be to use it to vaccinate the adult population as well as to supply it to other countries in need from where virus could potentially spread if immunity is not enhanced.