Karnataka likely to see demand for Covid booster shots

Karnataka likely to see demand for Covid booster shots

One genomic scientist said that data shows that the proportion of breakthrough infections will go up as more people get vaccinated

A genomic scientist said that the “proportion of breakthrough infections will go up" as more get vaccinated. At a point most will be breakthrough infections. Representative image. Credit: DH file photo

The last thing that a 34-year-old healthcare worker who had been vaccinated twice expected was to come down with symptomatic Covid-19.

Darshan P (name changed), a non-government frontline worker, told DH that he had received the first dose of Covishield in March, as his work for a health foundation often saw him working in the field with urban primary health centres and marginalised families.

“My second dose was in April. At the time, there was only a 30-day gap between doses. I contracted the disease for the first time last week. On August 19, I developed all the classic symptoms of the disease: fever, cough, cold, a severe headache, loss of taste and smell,” he said, adding that he has no comorbidities.

He added that an antigen and RT-PCR test confirmed that he had the disease. “A week later, I still have some symptoms, including mild fever, fatigue, cough and headache. I feel that a booster shot may be required because it appears I have had no protection from the two doses,” he said.

One genomic scientist who did not want to be named said that the data shows that the “proportion of breakthrough infections will go up as more people get vaccinated and that at some point almost all cases would be breakthroughs”.

He added that eventually, the number of breakthrough cases will peak when the two-dose vaccination rate crosses approximately 70%, resulting in a drop in cases “as the virus would find it difficult to find susceptible people”.

How many breakthrough infections have happened in Karnataka? Dr Arundhathi Chandrashekar, director, National Health Mission, said that there have been about 13,500 breakthrough infections up to a few days ago. “There have been a few deaths among people with one dose,” she specified.

She added that there is no provision at the moment to tack on a third dose and more than that that the government does not yet know how many second doses have actually been administered in Karnataka. “In some places, second doses have been entered as first doses. We are trying to manually sort this out,” she said.

In the interim, officials acknowledged the public’s interest in a booster shot. Dr S Sacchidanand, former vice-chancellor Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences explained that while “there is no decision about a booster dose in our country, people want it for the Delta variant and for additional immunity”.

Dr P G Girish, director of, Department of Medical Education added, “Unofficially, people may be taking it.”

The issue has experts worried. Dr Pruthu Narendra Dhekane, an infectious diseases expert at Fortis Hospitals on Bannerghatta Road said that India should focus more on completing two doses for the adult population, before adding a third dose to the equation.

“It may be unethical to consider a third dose in India at present,” he said. “Only between 9 and 11% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Doses are better spent to complete vaccinations of the unvaccinated or partly vaccinated segment.”

It is a view echoed by Dr Sacchidanand who nevertheless added that “there should be some scientific recommendations about the gap needed to provide a booster dose”.

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