While the Government of the United Kingdom found quite some time ago that the AstraZeneca-Oxford University-developed vaccine was not fit as a booster dose, the Government of India on 6 January told all states and union territories that the same Covid-19 vaccine that was administered as the first two doses would be given as a precautionary dose to healthcare and frontline workers, besides the elderly suffering from co-morbidities, whose inoculation would begin from 10 January.
Of the different Covid-19-resisting vaccines being administered in India, SII-procured and manufactured Covishield has been administered the most. It is the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University jointly, which the UK considers unfit as a booster.
Private hospitals that function as Covid vaccination centres can vaccinate their staff (doctors, paramedics etc) at the hospital itself, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter to states and union territories.
They may choose to bear the cost and provide the precaution dose free of cost to their staff, who are eligible and due, or they may provide the vaccination and charge for it.
Under the National Covid-19 Vaccination Programme, more than 148 crore vaccine doses have been successfully administered.
Bhushan said 91% of the adult population had received at least one dose and 66% has been fully vaccinated. More than 17% of adolescents aged 15 to 18 years have been vaccinated with the first dose within three days of initiation of vaccination for this age group, he said.
“All these are landmark achievements,” the health secretary said.
“The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) has recommended the administration of the homologous vaccine for HCWS, FLWS and elders (over 60 years of age) with co-morbidities i.e. the same vaccine that has been administered for previous two doses would be given as the precaution dose to the eligible beneficiaries,” Bhushan said in the letter.
“The administration of precaution dose to all eligible HCWS and FLWS of armed forces, special forces under the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Cabinet Secretariat may also be facilitated as was done during their primary two-dose vaccination,” he said in the letter addressed to the additional chief secretary, principal secretary, secretary (health) of all states and union territories.
British citizens asked to get booster vaccine but not of AstraZeneca
A study by researchers at the University of Oxford, an interim report of which was published in December 2021, had found that a booster dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine was able to significantly increase the levels of neutralising antibodies against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, offering hope that the vaccine could offer some protection against the fast-spreading variant.
However, the Government of the UK says, “You are likely to be offered a dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as a booster – evidence shows that these types of mRNA vaccines work best as boosters, even if you received a different vaccine for your first two doses. The JCVI reviewed data from several different vaccine combinations before making this recommendation.
“This means that even if you had AstraZeneca for your first two doses, it’s recommended that you have a different vaccine for your booster dose — either Pfizer or Moderna. You will only be offered the AstraZeneca booster if you can’t have Pfizer or Moderna due to allergies or medical reasons.
“The Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines have all been approved for use as booster jabs by the UK medicines regulator, the MHRA.
“More research is currently underway to look at other options for use as Covid-19 booster vaccines.”