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Scientific evidence does not underline need for COVID-19 booster dose

The scientific evidence from within the country does not underline the need for a COVID-19 booster dose right now, a senior ICMR official said on Sunday.

Samiran Panda, head of epidemiology and communicable diseases division at Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), stressed that two-dose vaccination of 80 per cent of people remains the major priority.

“If you ask me, the need of the hour is to attain 80 per cent coverage or more among the individuals with two doses of vaccine. Reaching out to over 80 per cent of eligible individuals is public health priority now,” he said.

Panda, who is also a member of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), the government’s advisory body on COVID-19 immunisation, said that policy formulation and decisions are based on scientific evidence.

“The Ministry of Health gets guided by scientific evidence and also advised by NTAGI. These are advisory bodies and considered by the Ministry and the respective depts to develop a policy…Right now the scientific evidence from within the country does not underline the need for a booster dose. Public health considerations are on the priority now,” he said when asked about the booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Amid growing debate on booster shots, several scientists in India suggested that the priority must be to ensure that more people are at least partially vaccinated.

Immunologist Vineeta Bal said that India should consider providing booster doses at this stage when about several people are yet to receive the first dose.

Bal, however, said that vulnerable people, those with co-morbidities, can be considered for additional shots on a case by case basis, PTI reported.

In September, ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said that a booster dose is not the central theme at the moment and getting two doses remains the major priority. Times Now