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India gears up for ‘precaution dose’ amid fears of potential third wave

Preparations are underway for vaccination of teenagers aged between 15 and 18 as Covid-19 cases including the Omicron variant cases rise in India

By The Probe Newsdesk
New Update

Omicron Caption: Pic courtesy: Special arrangement

Amid rising concerns over a potential third wave of Covid-19, India is readying itself for the next round of vaccination drive that is slated to start from January 3.

The government in its circular has notified that the teenagers between 15 and 18 years of age would be vaccinated with a shot of Covaxin and senior citizens with comorbidities will be given the precautionary dose starting from January 10.

“This is called a ‘precaution dose’ because it is being given in anticipation of a potential third wave. This dose more or less acts like a precaution dose that will protect people from the harmful effects of the virus. The vaccine is going to be the same. There is no difference in the composition of the vaccine. As of now, what has been recommended is that people who have taken Covaxin in the past should be taking only Covaxin as a precautionary dose and people who have taken Covishield in the past should be taking only Covishield as a precautionary dose,” said Dr. Vivek Nangia, Principal Director & Head, Pulmonology Department at Max Hospital

Dr. Vivek Nangia, Principal Director & Head, Pulmonology Department at Max Hospital speaks on the level of protection provided by the booster shot against the Omicron variant

Meanwhile, India recorded at least 1431 Omicron cases on New Year’s day. Delhi and Mumbai have seen a rapid increase in daily cases with Delhi recording a 50 percent jump in Covid cases on Saturday.

Dr. Kirti Sabnis, Infectious Disease Specialist at Fortis Mumbai speaks on booster vaccine dose

Speaking to The Probe on the booster dose, Dr. Kirti Sabnis, Infectious Disease Specialist at Fortis Mumbai said, “Right now, we have six types of vaccines, which are available in India. Covishield, which is widely used. Covaxin, which is an inactivated virus. Then we have Sputnik, Zydus and Covovax, which is manufactured by the same company that is manufacturing Covaxin. The sixth vaccine that we might get soon is the single dose vaccine from Zydus. These are the six vaccine contenders that we have with us for the booster dose. Very soon the government will let us know what exactly is going to be administered as the booster dose in the future for the majority of our population”.

Speaking on the need for clarity on future booster doses, Dr. Kirti said: “It is not clear as of now whether these doses can be mixed and matched. So there are two thoughts, in giving the booster dose across the world. There are studies that say mixing and matching vaccines is ok. But there are also studies that say that when you take the same vaccine, it gives you good protection. We are waiting for more clarity from the government on all these aspects in the coming days.”

The registration of teenagers for vaccination began on Saturday. The Health Secretary, Rajesh Bhushan also wrote to all the States and Union Territories asking the States and UTs for timely and swift upgradation of health infrastructure facilities to contain a possible third wave.

“In the context of the spread of the Variant of Concern i.e., the Omicron variant, the world is currently reporting the highest ever surge in Covid-19 cases. In India, the case trajectory is also showing an upward trend with 16,764 cases reported on 31 December 2021, highest ever single day rise in the past 70 days,” the Health Secretary stated in his letter.

Speaking on the importance of getting the vaccine jab, Dr. Vivek Nangia said, “Research is going on to determine which vaccine would be effective against the Omicron variant. We don’t know yet what is the efficacy of Covaxin and Covishield against the Omicron variant but what we know very well is that there would definitely be some degree of protection. How much? We don’t know. So, people who have not been vaccinated should definitely get themselves vaccinated and not use Omicron as a pretext for not getting themselves vaccinated. Irrespective of what percentage the efficacy is, even if it is a little bit efficacious, then it is worth taking the vaccine because vaccines protect you from developing a severe illness”.

In Maharashtra, as Covid-19 cases continued to surge, the recently concluded assembly session turned out to be a super-spreader event with 30 MLAs including 10 Ministers testing positive for Covid-19.

Dr. Vivek Nangia, Principal Director & Head, Pulmonology Department at Max Hospital speaks on the need for a booster dose.

“When you take two vaccines, they build up your immunity to a certain extent and gradually with the passage of time your immunity starts waning off. The memory cells also start reducing. They need a booster dose to boost the immune response up again so that you are able to face the virus. The idea of the vaccination is to provide you with a preformed immune response in your body, so that when you have an exposure to the virus, there are antibodies already present, which are able to neutralise this virus and prevent it from progressing into a serious illness,” said Dr. Nangia.

Ahead of the January 3 vaccination drive, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya also reviewed the public health preparedness to Covid-19 and the national Covid-19 vaccination drive. The health ministry has asked the States and Union Territories to share their requirements of vaccine doses through district wise estimation of beneficiaries using the Cowin app.

Dr. Kirti Sabnis, Infectious Disease Specialist at Fortis Mumbai speaks on lessons learnt from data related to South Africa

“What we have seen from the data related to South Africa is that the areas that were covered relatively less with vaccination, had more complications and more deaths. Extrapolating this, we can say that these vaccines that are being administered in India are working and will at least prevent complications though they will not prevent an individual from getting infected,” said Dr. Sabnis.

Dr. Vivek Nangia, Principal Director & Head, Pulmonology Department at Max Hospital says Covid-19 appropriate behaviour is the need of the hour

Reiterating the need to follow Covid-19 appropriate behaviour to prevent a third wave, Dr. Nangia said: “We need to reduce our outdoor movements. Avoid parties, meetings, large gatherings, and closed rooms. Rooms should be properly ventilated. Wear a mask at all times. Double masking is a better strategy. Of late, it has been recognised that the cloth masks that people wear are more or less a decorative item on the face rather than providing any protection. So, a triple layered surgical mask is a better option and the best option is to wear an N95 mask. Keep your hands clean. Keep your hands sanitised with an alcohol rub at regular intervals and get yourself vaccinated. That is the need of the hour.”

(With special inputs from Mrinalini Dhyani)
This article was updated on January 2, 2022