India / Reduce dose gap, allow booster shots: Aaditya Thackeray tells Centre

Zoom News : Dec 08, 2021, 08:26 AM
New Delhi: With rise in the number of new cases of Omicron variant of coronavirus in Maharashtra, state minister Aaditya Thackeray wrote a letter to the Centre Tuesday with three suggestions — allow booster shots, lessen the gap between vaccine doses and reduce the age eligibility for vaccination to 15 years.

On Monday, the state Covid-19 task force emphasised the need to provide booster shots and vaccinate the younger population who are more vulnerable to contracting Covid-19 with the opening of the schools.

The first suggestion in Thackeray’s letter to Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya was to ‘allow all those front-line workers and health care workers, who have received both their doses early in the year, a third shot at their studied desire.’ In the second point, he requested to reduce the age limit for vaccination to 15.

“In my conversations with various doctors, it seems that it may be ok to reduce the minimum age of vaccination to 15. This will enable us to cover the secondary schools and the junior colleges with vaccine protection,” he also wrote. Currently, 18 is the age of eligibility for Covid-19 immunisation.

He also wrote about the progress in the mass immunisation programme in Mumbai where over 100% of the eligible population have been vaccinated with the first dose and 73% have been fully vaccinated. He suggested that if the time gap between the two doses of Covishield can be reduced to four weeks, then the city would be able to attain 100% full vaccination by mid-January 2022.

“If the gap between two doses is reduced to four weeks, just like for those applying to work or study abroad, the city will cover 100% of its population with the second dose by mid-January 2022, without asking for more vaccines or altering its delivery schedule,” the letter read.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also requested the government to cover minors aged 12 to 17 under the vaccination programme. It warned of a ‘massive third wave’ if the necessary precautions are not taken amid the surge in the infectious Omicron cases.

Till Monday, India recorded 23 cases of Omicron, out of which 10 have been identified in Maharashtra — the highest in the country. Nearly a dozen samples of international passengers from ‘at-risk countries’ with Covid-19 infection have been sent for genome sequencing.

Earlier, the state health minister Rajesh Tope had also written to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) requesting to lessen the time gap of 84 days between the two shots of Covishield. But the ICMR did not agree to the proposal.

Talking to The Indian Express, Tope said, “Until the Centre gives us the permission, we can’t provide booster shots or start vaccinating minors. If they give the nod, we would immediately start vaccinating the beneficiaries.” He also highlighted that the state has an adequate amount of vials.

At present, the state has nearly 1.2 crore vaccine doses in its stock. Covishield accounts for 65 lakhs doses and Covaxin 55 lakh doses.

Dr Shashank Joshi said that it would take nearly three months to understand the epidemiological characteristics of the new variant until it spreads among the community.

“So far, we are witnessing the variant among sporadic travelers who are mostly vaccinated. We will be able to understand the virus once it replaces the Delta variant and establishes itself as the primary variant among the community,” said Dr Joshi.