Booster shot or additional dose? Experts mull ways to tackle Omicron

The continued evolution of SARS-COV-2 by accumulating genetic variants has given rise to many genetic variants of the virus

As the Omicron variant of coronavirus continues to raise threats of another pandemic,  medical authorities are looking at the need for a booster shot or additional vaccine dose to improve immunity among weaker people.

NK Arora, chairman of India’s COVID-19 task force, said the government was planning to come up with a policy to figure out who will require the vaccine, when and how.

“This needs to be seen in the context that a new variant is coming and with time, we will get more information about it. Therefore, the relevance and effectiveness of the current vaccines will also become apparent with time only,” he said after a recent meeting of a high level panel.

Booster dose & additional dose

The additional dose, or a full vaccine, is given to people whose natural immunity is compromised and or suppressed and is given when the first and second doses do not provide adequate protection from the infection and disease.

A booster dose on the other hand is given to individuals whose immune response from the primary vaccinations has reduced after a period of time.

The booster shot is aimed at increasing the magnitude of protection by producing more antibodies. It helps people maintain a stronger level of immunity for a longer period of time.

New variant concern

As the current vaccine doses provide protection against earlier variants of coronavirus, health researchers are saying there is a need for another dose in view of the Omicron variant that has emerged recently.

The immune system of older people is often less effective against infections and vaccinations too don’t offer substantial protection in them, which would lead to recurring infections.

The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) has recommended booster doses for above-40 people with a preference to high-risk and high-exposure populations.

Also read: Booster dose best 6 months after 2nd dose: Bharat Biotech MD

According to experts, the additional dose may not be given to the whole population but only to a small group of people whose immunity needs to be bolstered to match with that of the general population.

These could possibly include cancer patients, those who have received an organ transplant and other people suffering from ailments  and undergoing treatment.

Experts suggest that there is a possibility of side-effects that come with these doses but largely people will develop a better immunity against severe disease and death.

Going ahead, scientists in other countries believe that there will be a need to give more doses as new variants emerge.