As Covid-19 becomes endemic, India should review its vaccine policy to favour the safest vaccine of all the vaccines that have been approved for the coronavirus, says eminent virologist and former head of the department of clinical virology and microbiology of CMC, Vellore, Dr T Jacob John. A booster dose and two primary doses of Covid-19 vaccine are essential for developing sufficient immunity and children should not be left out of vaccination until it is scientifically proven to be unnecessary, he adds.
In a recent media interaction, Dr John said that inactivated virus vaccine is the safest platform and India should prefer safety once the risk benefit ratio tilts in its favour. "When faced with a pandemic and people are dying in large numbers, even if a vaccine causes serious adverse reaction in small numbers, say one in 50,000, the risk benefit ratio is far higher in favour of any vaccine. However, as the number of Covid deaths and hospitalisation comes down, there is a time when the risk benefit ratio flips. You should be prepared to see that. When coronavirus is in the endemic phase, one should take even a one in 50,000 serious reaction, seriously and use safer platforms. The inactivated virus is the safest platform," he said.
According to Dr John, for Coronavirus one may have to keep on building the immunity, by boosters. "One booster is an unquestioned necessity. Two primary doses and one booster complete the immunisation schedule. Beyond that we do not know whether people who have taken vaccine will have to keep on taking vaccines. Only time will tell."
On the question of whether children should be vaccinated against Covid-19, Dr John said the effects of the coronavirus are yet to be completely known. "The risk of serious disease is very low in children. But coronavirus goes to every organ in the body. It fixes itself to brain, heart, kidney, lung, blood vessel cells, every where. The child may have (mild) infection. But what later effects that infection would cause, we will know only later. So we need to be prepared," he said. Dr John wants children to be vaccinated and both vaccinated and unvaccinated children to be studied diligently for some years before one can safely say there is no need to vaccinate them.
India has so far administered 181.24 crore Covid-19 vaccines. About 18 lakh vaccine doses have been given to the age group 12-14 years. The active case load now stands at 25,106, 0.06% of India's total Covid-19 positive cases. The recovery rate is 98.74% at the moment.