Deliberating on booster doses of COVID vaccines: Centre to HC

‘Limited knowledge of duration of vaccine immunity’

The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that the National Technical Advisory Group of Immunization (NTAGI) and the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) are deliberating on the possible need and justification for booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in an affidavit, told the court 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 Ministry submitted that the SARS CoV-2 infection and the resulting disease has impacted India since 2020 as a new infectious disease, complete biological characteristics of which are yet unknown and under such circumstances, the necessity of a booster dose of COVID vaccine is yet to be decided.

It added that the “current priority” of the national COVID-19 vaccination programme is to cover the entire eligible population with full vaccination and that there are no guidelines yet regarding the administration of booster doses from the two expert bodies — NTAGI and NEGVAC.

The NTAGI examines the technical aspects like usage of different varieties of COVID vaccines, the interval between vaccine doses, contraindications, etc. and recommends the same to the NEGVAC, which provides overall guidance on all aspects of vaccination to the Ministry.

The Ministry’s affidavit was filed before a Bench comprising Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh, which is hearing various pleas, including one by lawyer and petitioner Rakesh Malhotra on various issues regarding COVID-19 crisis in the Capital.

The court had on November 25 ordered the Government to respond on the need for administration of booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines and the timeline within which the same is proposed to be rolled out on the Aarogya Setu application, if considered necessary.

The High Court had then directed the Centre and the Delhi Government to ensure that the orders, information, resources, data and statistics on COVID-19 are duly updated periodically on their respective websites.

The High Court had sensitised both the Governments — Central and Delhi — on the need for them to “be in readiness, in the eventuality of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting us”.

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