NEW DELHI: Covid-19 vaccine booster shots are not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic, according to a report in The Lancet published on Monday.
An expert review of scientific evidence to date has concluded that vaccines are effective enough at preventing severe Covid-19 and that there is no need at the moment for the general population to be given third doses.
The conclusion by scientists, including those from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), show that vaccination had 95% efficacy against severe disease both from the Delta variant and from the Alpha variant, and over 80 per cent efficacy at protecting against any infection from these variants.
“Although the idea of further reducing the number of Covid-19 cases by enhancing immunity in vaccinated people is appealing, any decision to do so should be evidence-based and consider the benefits and risks for individuals and society,” the study said.
“Current evidence does not appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high,” it added.
According to the study, even if some gain can ultimately be obtained from boosting, it will not outweigh the benefits of providing initial protection to the unvaccinated.
If vaccines are deployed where they would do the most good, they could hasten the end of the pandemic by inhibiting further evolution of variants, it said.
The Lancet study concluded that the current variants had not developed sufficiently to escape the immune response provided by vaccines currently in use.
The Lancet study comes at a time when the US is moving closer to offering booster shots to large segments of the population even as it struggles to persuade Americans to get vaccinated in the first place.
The head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has insisted that rich countries with large supplies of Covid-19 vaccines should hold off on offering booster shots through the end of the year and make the doses available to poorer countries.
John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that “we have not seen enough science” to drive decisions on when to administer booster shots.
“Without that, we are gambling,” he said, and urged countries to send doses to countries facing “vaccine famine” instead.
US health officials have defended the administration’s plan to offer Americans’ additional protection against the virus with another vaccine dose, even as others await initial shots, noting that United States has also donated more vaccine doses internationally than every other country combined.
According to a report in Bloomberg, Israel is making preparations to ensure it has sufficient vaccine supply in case a fourth round of Covid-19 shots is needed.
Meanwhile, India has crossed the landmark of administering 75 crore Covid vaccine doses.
So far, all adult people in six states and Union territories — Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Ladakh and Lakshadweep — have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
India took 85 days to touch the 10-crore vaccination mark, 45 more days to cross the 20-crore mark and 29 more days to reach 30 crore, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said.
The country took 24 days to reach 40 crore from 30 crore doses and then 20 more days to cross the 50-crore vaccination mark on August 6.