Not enough data has been generated locally to decide on the need for a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine for those fully inoculated, say experts amid the possibility of a third wave of the viral disease hitting the country between September and October.
An expert panel set up by an institute under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has predicted that the third wave of COVID-19 can hit the country anytime between September and October and suggested significantly ramping up the vaccination pace.
The World Health Organisation has, however, sought a two-month halt on administering booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines in view of severely constrained vaccine availability around the globe.
"India will decide on booster dose based on scientific evidence generated locally. Studies are already underway to determine the need and timing of booster for currently used vaccines in the country," said Dr N K Arora, chairman of the COVID-19 working group of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI).
The need for booster doses will be determined by the epidemiology of the Covid infection in the country besides the durability of protection provided by the current dosage regime of the vaccines.
"Any booster dose regime has also to ensure that adverse events are not associated with boosting," Arora said.
All India Institute of Medical Sciences director Randeep Guleria said there is no definite evidence to suggest currently that there is a need to give booster shots to those who have been vaccinated in the past.
"Current data suggests that the vaccines are effective in preventing severe disease and death in those who have been vaccinated, even against the Delta variant.
"Also, we should vaccinate those who have not even received a single dose and are in the high risk category first so as to prevent severe disease and death in the upcoming wave. Currently, booster shots are not required and as more data emerges it will then be clear when and what type of booster shot is required," he said.
A number of countries including the US and Israel are planning to offer booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) has discussed the issue of giving booster vaccine dose and it is being looked into very deeply, NITI Aayog Member (Health) Dr V K Paul had said earlier this month.
He had said it must be taken as a work in progress as science is still emerging in this area.
Responding to a question on the need for giving booster COVID-19 vaccine dose, Paul had said, "I would say we are watching the science for the need for such an imperative very carefully. Global work as well as you may know that certain studies in the country are being instituted and we are looking at it very deeply," he said.
The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 with healthcare workers workers getting inoculated and inoculation of frontline workers started from February 2.