MUMBAI: The demand for rolling out booster shots of Covid for frontline workers and the vulnerable high-risk group is getting stronger, amid news that states and the private sector are sitting on soon-to-expire doses.
Even as the Centre is closely monitoring nationwide stocks to ensure sufficient quantities are available for those eligible for second doses, there is a strong recommendation to allow boosters for the vulnerable population, as it will be “criminal negligence” to waste or let even a single dose expire.
The issue was raised recently in the National Covid Task Force by its member Dr Subhash Salunkhe, who is of the view that those responsible for vaccination at a public or private level, need to draw up a strategy for immunisation for both — second and booster shots — to be taken up concurrently.
Data gathered through Cowin makes it possible to know the daily stocks, expiry date of vaccines and those eligible for second doses, hence the Centre should take a call quickly on this as a majority of doses will expire soon, Dr Subhash Salunkhe told TOI.
This comes at a time when municipal bodies like BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) and large private hospitals are stuck with vaccine stocks, many of which will expire by January as they have a shelf-life of six months. What is also concerning is that there is massive vaccine hesitancy, with a huge set of population not coming forward to get the second jab. About 7.17 crore people have ‘missed’ their second shot, with unused vaccine doses of nearly 16 crore lying with states, as per health ministry estimates.
A top Mumbai-based corporate is struggling to donate its excess vaccines, after it discovered that NGOs in Maharashtra and Rajasthan are also sitting with doses. “We completed the immunisation of our employees, and are still left with 300-odd doses, which will expire in January. The Centre should allow a booster to protect frontline medical personnel and vulnerable populations,” the company’s MD, who didn’t want to be named, told TOI.
The third or booster shot could be rolled out after a critical analysis of doses reserved for those eligible for second jabs, and a compliance of each district on its vaccination usage. Those who haven’t been able to use them can hand them back to the central or state authorities, Dr Salunkhe said. Major hospitals have also urged the central government to allow boosters.