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COVID-19: 'No Data' Shows Need for Booster Dose in India, Say Experts

"Not aware of any boosting data from India. It’s not allowed by the government," Virologist Dr Shahid Jameel said.

Updated
COVID-19: 'No Data' Shows Need for Booster Dose in India, Say Experts
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COVID-19 booster shot is the buzzword these days. Even as a large part of the world scrambles for first doses, wealthier countries are recommending boosters for their populations.

On Wednesday, 18 August, the Joe Biden administration announced that Americans who have received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines eight months ago, will be eligible to receive a third, starting 20 September.

US health officials noted that the vaccines' effectiveness is slipping and that it's important to shore up protection amid the surging Delta variant.

Countries like Israel, Germany, France, UK, are mulling boosters although the World Health Organization last week called for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots until at least the end of September.

In India, Serum Institute of India Chairman Cyrus Poonawalla said last week that taking a third or booster dose of Covishield was desirable.

But here's the thing – the jury is still out on the benefits of the boosters for those without underlying health issues.

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Do we really need it when billions of people in the developing world are still unvaccinated? Is there any evidence for vaccines in India needing booster shots? Is it the need of the hour? FIT spoke to experts to find out.

‘Generate Solid Data First'

"No data yet."

"Ultimately, I think we may need boosters, but we should generate solid data first. For example, I see no evidence for a six month booster dose, at this time," Virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang told FIT.

"I am not aware of any boosting data from India. It’s not allowed by the government," Virologist Dr Shahid Jameel said.

A good time for India to consider booster doses is "when the government allows, based on data from antibody longevity studies," Dr Jameel added.

The Indian regulator may also use data on AZ vaccine from other countries to allow boosters. That is unlikely to happen soon since India is still far away from its original vaccination target.
Dr Shahid Jameel, Virologist

Immunologist Dr Satyajit Rath echoed their remarks and said, "As far as I know, there is no evidence currently about whether any of the covid vaccinations being done in India are likely to need booster doses."

In fact, I think that most of the global claims of evidence suggesting the utility or even the necessity of booster doses are exaggerations.
Dr Satyajit Rath, Immunologist

"The claim rests on the modest waning of antibody levels by about a year after the two-dose regimen, coupled to the possibility that protection against mild infection by the SARS-CoV-2 delta variant may need higher vaccine-generated antibody doses than needed for the original virus strains," Dr Rath added.

'Conversation About Booster Doses Extremely Self-Serving'

The US has argued that while while booster doses are not needed to protect individuals against serious illness or death, they are useful against the highly infectious delta variant of coronavirus.

All of this conversation effectively suggests that rich people's transmission problems are more serious than poor people's survival problems, both internationally and within India, and I think it is all quite inappropriate at the moment.
Dr Satyajit Rath, Immunologist

As of 19 August, India has administered over 56.64 crore vaccine doses, according to the health ministry.

With a majority of the population is yet to receive even the first dose, this is not the time for speculation on the need for boosters, Dr Rath said.

"As matters stand, much of the world, and much of India, for that matter, has not received even a first dose of any Covid vaccine, making all this conversation about booster doses extremely self-serving."

So, double doses are the need of the hour.

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COVID Boosters: ‘Not the Time'

"Much medicine practiced on the basis of 'it does not hurt & it may help some people some of the time'. Given the state of the world's vaccination & no evidence for - not time for this," Dr Kang tweeted.

Dr Kang also says that higher antibodies or a higher titer value doesn't guarantee better protection against Covid.

"Yes, the Moderna and AZ correlates of protection analysis shows that higher antibodies correlate with better protection, BUT there is no cut-off level of antibodies which reliably predict protection at the individual levels. Antibodies good, but not all of immune response!" Dr Kang said.

"Know it sounds obvious that more antibodies (abs) are better but we really don't know whether people who push up abs with additional doses will be better protected than with level they initially made. Or that when abs wane, we need to boost to maintain above some level," she added.

(Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)

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