While mass vaccination seems to be the only way out of this pandemic, it is difficult for a country like India, to ensure that a majority of its large population is fully vaccinated (taken both doses of double dose COVID-19 vaccines) at the earliest.
The vulnerable population needs to be fully vaccinated on priority. Further, most vaccines come as double doses that need to be separated by many days.
Also, the production of vaccines may not be able to match up the speed at which people need to be vaccinated every day. These factors add to the difficulties in mass vaccination.
Meanwhile, the novel Coronavirus continues to spread and mutate (change its genetic material), more so in unvaccinated populations and is making it difficult for experts to chart plans to fight this pandemic effectively.
Now, many countries are considering or have already started giving a third or booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines to their citizens.
But is a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine needed or recommended at this stage? Let’s find out what experts have to say.
Arguments in Favour of a Third Dose of COVID-19 Vaccines
1. Falling Antibody Levels
It has not been clearly established how long the protection imparted by COVID-19 vaccines lasts. Some vaccines may offer more long term-protection against COVID-19 than others. However, some studies suggest that the antibodies from COVID-19 vaccines may last for up to 6 months after complete vaccination.
Although this time may vary for different individuals, many experts believe that the risk of re-infection increases as antibody levels reduce after 6 months.
Thus, a third or booster dose may be needed, as it has already been 6 months from complete vaccination for a sizable population in various countries.
2. Vulnerable Population
It is known that a section of the population is more vulnerable to severe illness and fatality with COVID-19.
This includes the elderly (especially 80 years and above), obese, diabetic, those with lung, heart and kidney diseases, cancer patients, and the immunocompromised (with a weakened immune system).
Vulnerable individuals may not produce an adequate number of antibodies (proteins produced by your immune system in response to foreign agents such as viruses) with two vaccine doses and may need a third or booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Immunocompromised individuals may also help new and more transmissible Coronavirus variants to develop, and giving them a booster dose may protect them and prevent new mutant strains from evolving.
3. Mutations And New Coronavirus Variants
As the novel Coronavirus evolves over time, some of its mutations seem to be making it more transmissible and severe.
The mutations may also give rise to Coronavirus variants against whom COVID-19 vaccines are less effective or even ineffective.
Thus, getting a single-dose vaccine, or two doses of a double dose vaccine may not be enough to prevent being infected or fall severely ill with the new mutant strains of the Coronavirus.
Experts consider that booster doses may be needed with second-generation COVID-19 vaccines proven to provide a better immunity against the new Coronavirus strains.
Arguments Against a Third Dose of COVID-19 Vaccines
Since research on COVID-19 and vaccines is still recent and ongoing, many scientists feel like there is not enough evidence to warrant a routine third/booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines.
Some experts believe that vaccinating more of a population with at least one dose should be the priority for the time being, as it would help prevent the evolution of more transmissible and infectious Coronavirus mutants.
Thus, COVID-19 vaccine production should be focused on protecting as much of a population as possible, instead of providing booster doses to already fully vaccinated groups.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that it is not currently recommending the use of a third/booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines. It is also of the opinion that since a large percentage of the world population is yet to receive its first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, especially in low-income countries, vaccine supply should first be diverted to such highly vulnerable populations.
Booster doses or annual shots for COVID-19 vaccines may become a necessity in the future.
Till then, continue to follow all COVID-19 appropriate protocols, and get vaccinated if you have not, to stop the spread of the Coronavirus and prevent newer and more potent virus strains from developing.
Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.