The massive drive launched by the government to provide the third ”precautionary dose” of the Covid-19 vaccine to the people who are most vulnerable to getting infected seems to be progressing satisfactorily, experts say.
The third dose is being currently given to those above 60 years with comorbidities, healthcare workers, and frontline workers.
The new Covid variant, Omicron, has been found to be the most transmissible of all the mutants of the virus. A large number of doctors and paramedics in Delhi have tested positive in the Omicron-led third wave, though most are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
Experts feel that as the disease spreads, it may severely affect the more vulnerable, such as the elderly. A ”precautionary dose” will help boost immunity among these people.
The vaccines, which have so far been given in India, are two-dose vaccines: Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, Serum Institute of India’s Covishield, and Gamaleya’s Sputnik V.
While the two doses of Covaxin are given at a 28-day interval, Covishield’s are administered at a 16-weeks gap. Sputnik’s two doses are given 21 days apart. These two doses provide a good degree of protection against severe disease.
However, experts say the immunity generated through vaccines fades a bit after a few months of inoculation. “The third dose will help generate a stronger immune response in people who are at a higher risk of developing severe disease, or mortality. This will also help in reducing hospitalisation,” says Dr. Arun Sharma, a community medicine specialist.
The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) has recommended the administration of the homologous vaccine to healthcare workers, frontline workers, and the elderly (more than 60 years of age with comorbidities), which means that the same vaccine that has been administered for the first two doses would be given as the precautionary dose to the eligible beneficiaries.
”Those who have received Covaxin will receive Covaxin and those who have received the primary two doses of Covishield will receive Covishield”, said Dr. V K Paul, Member, Niti Ayog.
India has administered over 150 core doses of vaccines to people above 18. More than 65 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated and 90 per cent has received its first dose.
On 3 January, the government began vaccination for children between 15 to 18 years of age. Out of 7.5 crore children between this age group, over 2 crores have already received their first dose. “Large-scale vaccination will help protect our people against severe disease. Most vaccinated people who catch infection will recover fast and are unlikely to require hospitalisation,” says Dr. Arvind Rajavanshi, Executive Director, AIIMS, Raibareli.
Along with vaccination, experts say, following Covid Appropriate Behaviour is very important. Wearing a mask properly is highly effective in preventing infection. Besides washing hands regularly and avoiding crowded spaces help prevent the spread of the disease.