Expert bodies studying booster shots: Centre tells Delhi HC

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The Union government has informed the Delhi High Court that currently there are no guidelines for administering booster doses to fully vaccinated people and the priority is to cover the entire eligible population with both the doses.

In an affidavit, the government told a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh that the appropriateness and necessity of booster dose of covid-19 vaccine is yet to be decided.

“It is humbly submitted that the current knowledge about duration of immunity offered by Covid-19 vaccines in India is limited and will clearly be known over a period of time only,” the Centre said in an affidavit filed on December 10.

In recent days, initial evidence has emerged of the need for a booster dose of Covid vaccines to combat a new strain of the Omicron variant of the virus causing the disease, but India is yet to take a call on boosters. Till Tuesday evening, the country had completely vaccinated 55.5% of its adult population of 940 million and partly vaccinated another 31.5%.

Expert bodies National Technical Immunization (NTAGI) and National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC), responsible for advising the Centre on its immunisation policy, are deliberating and considering scientific evidence related to boosters.

The government’s response came on a bunch of pleas, including one by advocate Rakesh Malhotra seeking better facilities to tackle Covid-19.

On the last date of the hearing, on November 25, the court asked the union government to give a categorical reply on the necessity of booster doses to be administered to fully vaccinated people, saying that there was an increasing trend of advocacy for booster shots in western countries. To be sure, until recently, there was no strong scientific evidence in favour of boosters.

The court also asked the Centre as to how the western world is encouraging boosters when the Indian government was not permitting even those who voluntarily want to take the advanced dose.

The court said it would want to see expert studies on the requirement of boosters while adding that there is no medical evidence to support its administration. It also said that the decision of giving a booster dose should not be based on economics.

The matter was listed on Tuesday but could not be taken up due to the paucity of time.

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