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Covid booster dose to be same as jab administered earlier: Govt

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date
Covid booster dose to be same as jab administered earlier: Govt

New Delhi: Clearing confusion surrounding Covid-19 booster dose, the central government on Wednesday said that no mixing and matching of vaccines will be allowed while administering the third or precautionary anti-Covid dose.

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“Precautionary Covid-19 vaccine dose will be the same as has been given previously. Those who have received Covaxin will receive Covaxin, those who have received primary two doses of Covishield will receive Covishield,” said VK Paul, member (health) of Niti Aayog. 

This means individuals who received two doses of the Serum Institute’s Covishield will get the same vaccine this time, and those who got Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin will get a third jab of that vaccine.

Calls for booster doses, at least for those who are at increased risk of contracting, or re-contracting, the virus, increased after the emergence of the Omicron variant, which is widely believed to be both more infectious and more resilient to existing vaccines.

The ‘precautionary’ dose – announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month after sustained demand for vaccine boosters in the light of the Omicron threat – is, for now, only available for frontline and healthcare workers, and those over 60 with co-morbidities, starting January 10.

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Well before the Indian government authorised boosters, or ‘precautionary’ shots, several other countries had already done so, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

On paper eight vaccines cleared for use in India, including US pharma giants’ Moderna and another by Johnson & Johnson but only two – Covishield and Covaxin – have been used.

An overwhelming majority of Indians have received the former, i.e., Covishield.

Last week two more were added to the ‘on paper’ list – Corbevax, described as India’s first homegrown “RBD protein sub-unit vaccine”, and Covovax – as well as the anti-viral drug Molnupiravir.

Corbevax and Covovax – are unlikely to be used for booster shots, Dr Arora told media.

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India has, so far, administered nearly 147 crore doses, of which around 61.8 crore are second doses.

The government’s decision to not mix-and-match vaccines follows the World Health Organization saying it is advisable to ensure people get the same drug they were initially given.

In July last year the WHO’s Chief Scientist, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, said mixing and matching vaccines was “a bit of a data-free, evidence-free zone.”

Mixing and matching of vaccines should only be done if there is a supply constraint, the WHO said.

Vaccine combinations, already used by some governments, could help low- and middle-income countries manage stockpiles and deal with vaccine shortages as the Omicron variant spreads.

The European Union has endorsed the mixing of two different shots for both initial vaccine schedules and boosters, and the United States, in October, said it would allow ‘mix-and-match’ boosters.

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This morning India reported 58,097 new cases over the previous 24 hours; this includes 243 cases of the Omicron variant. This morning’s overall daily Covid case count was the sixth increase in nine days.

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