Prof Padmanabhan suggests that India might need a Covid booster before mid-2022

According to Prof G. Padmanaban (eminent scientist/biochemist), India might need the third dose of Covid vaccine in the middle of next Year. This is because breakthrough cases have been reported even after full vaccination.

Professor Padmanaban is the Chancellor of Central University of Tamil Nadu. He is also a Padma Bhushan recipient.

“Infections by the Delta variant are common and there is a six-eightfold drop in the ability of antisera to neutralise it compared to the wild type. This is either due to vaccination spikes or whole viruses.

Although no one knows for sure how long protective antibodies will be effective, it is widely believed that they can last between six and one year. He said that if the virus does not become weaker, it is possible for a re-infection.

Scientists’ understanding of cell-mediated immunity (cellular immunity and humoral immunity), is still developing in the Covid case. He noted that “a third dose” (sometime between mid and late next year) via mix and match would also allow for a different vaccine.

A vaccine breakthrough infection is defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as detection of SARS CoV-2 RNA or antigen in a sample of respiratory fluid taken from someone more than 14 days after receiving all of the recommended doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Many scientists and studies have shown that two doses of the Covid vaccine can prevent infection, hospitalisation, and death from SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The debate about Covid boosters was revived by the spread of the Delta Covid variant. According to the World Health Organisation it has now reached more than 185 countries. The Delta variant caused serious problems for Israel, which was among the first to inoculate all its citizens (two doses). It was also the first country to offer a third dose to its citizens.

“The Delta variant isn’t the end of the story when it comes to variants. But the bigger question is: do we have the vaccine to protect every variant? Perhaps not. Perhaps not.

Many countries including the USA, UK, France and Germany have implemented Covid booster. However, India continues to weigh the need for it.

Indian Council of Medical Research has not yet approved a booster dose for India. According to media reports, Balram Bhargava, Director of ICMR, stated that India is not interested in a booster dose and that two doses are the main priority.

Countries that introduced boosters first gave the third dose of the booster to those over 70 and people with weaker immune system. Indian experts claim that booster doses are not necessary in India because there hasn’t been enough research on the subject.

Padmanabhan stated that it is essentially a matter of supply and demand. We still have not been able to produce enough vaccines to cover all those above 18 years. For 75 million people, we would need 1,500 mn doses (2 jabs). Perhaps 25% (two doses) has been reached.

 

“If we want to vaccinate this population by December, then we must make 300 mn doses per year.” India currently has four vaccines, Covaxin and Covishield, Sputnik V, ZyCoV–D, and Sputnik V. Sputnik and Zydus Cadila need to “scale up” their vaccine production.

Two other vaccines are expected to be available in India: a mRNA vaccine from Gennova Biopharma (a subsidiary of Pune-based Emcure Pharmaceuticals) and a Recombinant RBD vaccination by Biological E, Hyderabad.

If all of these are realized, then we will be able to vaccinate 75 million people before March (two doses). Only then can we consider giving a third dose to anyone over 70. Children aged between 2 and 18 have been added to the mix. “Public health experts must decide,” Padmanaban said.

According to the scientist, 83 years old, “The SARS-CoV-2 virus is weakening and even if there’s a third wave it’s likely to be mild.”

He said that the possibility of SARS-CoV-2 infecting us each year is a “speculation”.

“Despite our claims of great scientific and technological advancement, this tiny virus has been a challenge to scientists. It is a lesson in humility!” He said.