India may need Covid booster by mid-2022, says eminent scientist

NEW DELHI, OCT 13 (IANS) | Publish Date: 10/13/2021 12:48:04 PM IST

India may require the third dose of Covid vaccine by the middle of next year, said eminent scientist and biochemist Prof G. Padmanaban, as breakthrough cases even after full vaccination have been prevalent, even though mostly mild.

Prof. Padmanaban, who is Chancellor of Central University of Tamil Nadu and a Padma Bhushan recipient, said that his opinion of a third dose is based on “scientific understanding”. “In an infection by the Delta variant, which is widespread, there is a six-eight fold drop in the potential of antisera from vaccines to neutralise the variant compared to the wild type (used for vaccination- spike or whole virus).

“Nobody still has a clear answer to how long the protective antibodies will last, it has been variably estimated to be between six months and one year. If the virus has not weakened by itself, by that time, there is possibility for a re-infection,” he said. As scientists’ understanding of cell-mediated protection (cellular immunity and humoral immunity) is still evolving in the case of Covid, “a third dose (sometime mid to late next year) by mix and match, also gives an opportunity to give a different vaccine against the variant,” he noted.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a vaccine breakthrough infection as the detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA or antigen in a respiratory specimen collected from a person more than 14 days after they have completed all recommended doses of an authorised Covid-19 vaccine.

Globally, many studies and scientists have claimed that two-doses of a Covid vaccine are sufficient for preventing infection, hospitalisation and death by SARS-CoV-2 virus.

However, the Delta Covid variant, which has now spread to more than 185 countries, as per the World Health Organisation, renewed the debate for Covid boosters. Israel, which was one of the first countries to fully inoculate (two doses) the majority of its people, suffered badly due to the Delta variant. It again became one of the first countries to roll out a third dose for its citizens.

“As far as the variants are concerned, the Delta variant is not the end of the story. The larger question is -- do we have the vaccine for every variant being created? Perhaps not. Thus, I feel that by the middle of next year, India may need the third dose of vaccine,” Padmanaban, the former Director of Indian Institute of Science, said at a weekly health show by the New-Delhi-based HEAL Foundation.

While many countries, including the US, the UK, France, Germany, have rolled out of Covid booster, India is still weighing the need for it.

For India, a booster dose is not the central theme at the moment and getting two doses remains the major priority, media reports quoted ICMR director general Balram Bhargava as saying.

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