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COVID-19 Booster Dose Only After Experts' Nod; Vax Efficacy On Omicron Under Study: Centre

On Friday, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya stated that a COVID-19 booster dose policy will be introduced only after scientists approve such a proposal.

COVID-19, booster dose

Image: PTI

Speaking in the Lok Sabha on Friday, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya affirmed that a COVID-19 booster dose policy will be introduced only after scientists approve such a proposal. Maintaining that the Centre's target is to achieve 100% vaccine doses at the earliest, he reminded the House that 7 crore doses are lying unutilized with states. According to him, India had fared much better as far as the novel coronavirus vaccination is concerned in comparison to many other countries of the world. On this occasion, Mandaviya also weighed in on the effectiveness of the vaccines on the Omicron variant. 

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya remarked, "We desire that 100% vaccination should be completed as early as possible. Today, India has administered first dose to 86% of the population. India has done the best if you compare it with the rest of the world. If you see in USA, 77.70% persons have been administered first dose, 59% have been administered the second dose. In Germany, 72% have been administered first dose, 69% have been administered second dose. In France, 80% have been administered first dose, 78% have been administered second dose."

On the possibility of the Centre formulating a policy on COVID-19 booster dose, he clarified, "During the discussion on COVID itself, I said that we have two expert groups in the country. One is NEGVAC and the other is NTAGI. One group conducts research on the vaccine and gives its opinion. One group gives advice on when and how to do immunization. They are scientific groups. If we had to take a political decision, then we can do any kind of discussion. But we have faith in the scientists of this country. When our scientists tell us, we will take forward the policy."

"Today, the Omicron virus has been detected in 59 countries. In the world, study is being done to ascertain the effectiveness of vaccines whether it is Covaxin, Covishield or Pfizer by developing the virus in the laboratory. On the basis of this vaccine, it will be determined as to how much effective each vaccine is (on Omicron)," he added.

COVID-19 vaccination in India

At present, there are 94,943 active novel coronavirus cases in India whereas 3,41,05,066 patients have recovered and 4,74,735  deaths have been reported. The improvement in India's COVID-19 situation has been attributed to the rapid progress in vaccination. The country's vaccine drive against COVID-19 commenced on 16 January with healthcare workers getting inoculated in the first phase. This was opened up to frontline workers on 2 February while those aged above 60 and above 45 with co-morbidities became eligible for vaccination from 1 March.

While everyone aged above 45 could get vaccinated from 1 April, all adults were added to the vaccination coverage category on 1 May. In a huge achievement, India completed administering one crore novel coronavirus vaccine doses on October 21. Apart from Covishield and Covaxin, the Drugs Controller General of India has approved Sputnik V, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine, and Zydus Cadila's ZyCoV-D. A total of 81,14,43,992 persons have been inoculated whereas 50,09,31,096 of them have received the second dose of the vaccine too.

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