Will India get booster doses soon? Narendra Modi government launches study as Omicron cases surge

The advent of Omicron, a new mutation of the coronavirus, has sparked calls for booster doses in the country

A health worker takes a swab sample of a traveller to test for COVID-19 at a train station in Mumbai. AP

The Narendra Modi government has launched a study to assess the need of booster doses against COVID-19 in India, News18.com has learnt.

The multi-centre study, headed by the Department of Biotechnology’s premier institute Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), aims to cover more than 3,000 participants who had received the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine six months ago. The study, sponsored by DBT, covers three vaccines used in India — Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V.

The advent of Omicron, a new mutation of the coronavirus , has sparked calls for booster doses in the country. The objective of a booster dose is to restore vaccine effectiveness. However, so far, it is not clear if the immunity given by the vaccines in India has started waning or if there is an urgent requirement for booster doses.

“It is an academic study where the idea is to understand the duration of immunity in the real-world scenario. Blood samples have been drawn to assess the cell-mediated immunity,” a senior official who, heads one of the sites enrolled under the study, told News18.com.

“We will analyse the T and B cell response and antibodies, and what is the protection level after six months of receiving the second dose. This will enhance our understanding on the requirement of booster doses in India,” the official added.

The central government has so far not taken any decision on booster doses. The Modi government appointed National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) is slated to meet soon to take a call on the same.

How is the study being done?

The study has been designed to include four cohorts — people above 40 years of age, people below 40 years of age, people infected with COVID-19 prior to vaccination, and people with co-morbid conditions.

Hospital sites involved in the study are collecting blood samples from Delhi-NCR, Gurugram and Faridabad. “A simple questionnaire has been created to collect the information on their medical history, vaccination status and other clinical information,” the source said.

The sites will be submitting the report on blood samples along with the analysis on the requirement of booster doses in India.

“We will submit the report on the requirement of boosters in India. Meanwhile, we have been conducting weekly discussions with DBT’s THSTI and sending the blood samples.”

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