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Covid-19 vaccine: Booster dose still not central theme in discussions, full vaccine coverage remains top priority, says ICMR DG

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As countries like US , UK and other higher-income countries are prepping up for Covid-19 vaccine booster dose campaign with the surge of Delta variant cases, the Union Health Ministry on Thursday maintained that India; priority will continue to achieve double dose vaccination for the entire population and at the moment, the concern about a booster dose in a not a part of the central team’s scientific discussion.

On Thursday, DG ICMR Dr Balram Bhargava pointed out that even with several studies suggesting that the efficacy of the vaccines or the antibodies produced reduces after a certain period of administering both the doses, there are other forms of immunity against can infection that can guard an individual. Hence, at the moment increasing the coverage of the two-dose vaccination remains top public health priority for the centre.

India has vaccinated 62 per cent of its population with the first dose of the vaccination, while 20 percent of the eligible population is already fully vaccinated. Bhargava further emphasized that getting full vaccination is the primary concern; there’s no discussion going around booster dose. He further informed that several agencies have recommended that antibody levels should not be measured like the studies as the body has cellular immunity, mucosal immunity in addition to acquired immunity from vaccine. Full vaccination of the entire population is absolutely essential and there can be no breach in that idea, he affirmed.

On Thursday, the health ministry talking about the country’s Covid-19 preparedness highlighted that 1,595 plants that generate medical oxygen have been commissioned and they are currently providing 1,088 MY medical oxygen at hospitals across the country.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan further informed that 731 of the 1,595 plants set up have been set up from Central government resources and are providing 1,024 MT of medical oxygen in hospitals. The remaining PSA plants that were commissioned through the state government or other means will provide 1,065 MT of medical oxygen. Moreover, from the CSR funds, MPLAD funds, local urban body funds– 2,140 PSA plants are being commissioned; once they are complete 2,289 MT of medical oxygen will be available,” Bhushan said.

Dr V K Paul, the head of India’s Covid-19 task force, reiterated that the next two to three months will be crucial for the country in terms of Covid cases due to the upcoming festive season which will see gathering of people. Any early rise in cases need to be brought under control. Early estimation says that in next three months, the country will become more vulnerable, especially during October and November, the Navratri and Diwali months. The Centre needs to be extra cautious and move the vaccination programme further as its only shield from the third wave of the pandemic, he advised.

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