The government faces a growing clamor from business leaders and public health experts to launch a Covid-19 recall campaign and start vaccinating children as the nation braces for a wave of infections caused by the omicron.
With sufficient vaccine supply, India could start immunizing under-18s and administering third doses to frontline health workers, the elderly and those at high risk since they received their first injections. in early 2021, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the founder and chairman of Biocon Ltd., one of India’s largest drugmakers, told Bloomberg on Thursday.
“We need a safe recall policy,” she said. “I really don’t know what’s blocking it – it has nothing to do with the availability of vaccines.”
The highly mutated and highly transmissible variant, which was discovered inside India’s borders earlier this month, has already led to 358 infections. Now, many, including Ms Shaw, are calling for the country to follow the lead of others by providing third doses to its population of nearly 1.4 billion, as well as including children in the immunization program. the reopening of schools.
Elsewhere, Japan has announced plans to speed up the rollout of boosters and the UK has set an end-of-year deadline to offer all adults a third dose. Israel is even experimenting with a fourth Covid shot.
Recent studies show that a third dose of AstraZeneca Plc vaccine – which accounts for almost 90% of doses given in India – significantly boosted neutralizing antibodies against omicron as immunity from two injections began to wane after three months. The Indian Medical Association, which represents doctors, has urged the government to provide additional doses to frontline workers and people with weakened immune systems.
Based on Omicron data, I am worried about my parents in their 80s, vaccinated in June and who do not have access to a booster.
I’m sure millions of other Indians are worried about their loved ones.
Please consider a recall for high risk groups in India.
– Bhramar Mukherjee (@BhramarBioStat) December 21, 2021
While India has deployed more than 1.4 billion vaccines, only 41% of its population has been fully vaccinated, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. This shortfall is partly linked to some remaining hesitation, as well as the fact that India has yet to start vaccinating under-18s.
As some cities, including New Delhi and Mumbai, begin to record increasing numbers of infections, many states in India are also set to reimpose restrictions on Christmas and New Year celebrations and gatherings.
Anil Rajput, general affairs manager of conglomerate ITC Ltd. based in Kolkata, told a panel in early December that there were “growing concerns about the need for a booster dose, especially in light of the new variant.” It was also crucial to limit vaccine wastage with many doses close to expiration, Rajput said.
India’s network of government-funded Covid genome sequencing laboratories said in late November that recalls should be considered for those over 40 and those at high risk, as the risk of serious illness will likely be reduced.
The drug regulator has so far been reluctant to allow third doses or childhood vaccinations until local trial data has been produced. Government officials reiterated their goals of fully immunizing the country’s adult population first.
The Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While the director of the Serum Institute of India Ltd. – which locally produces AstraZeneca’s shots – warned of a drop in production two weeks ago due to lack of orders, Ms Shaw expects demand to remain robust through 2022, especially whether the recall shots are fired “every six months or so”.
Biocon signed an agreement earlier this year with Serum for access to 100 million doses of vaccine per year.
Ms. Shaw knows from personal experience that the protection offered by vaccines prevents the worst consequences. Three weeks ago, 12 people in her household – including her husband and domestic staff – tested positive for Covid. But, being fully vaccinated, they all had only mild symptoms and no one needed to go to the hospital.
“The vaccine protected them against serious illness,” she said. But over time, “you will have declining antibodies – I think you need boosters.”