India starts COVID booster vaccine application

Health care workers and frontline workers as well as people over 60 years of age with health problems lined up at Indian vaccination centers on Monday to receive the third dose of COVID-19 vaccine as an increase in infections linked to the omicron variant is reported.

The doses, which Indian authorities are calling preventive rather than a booster, are being administered as confirmed new cases of coronavirus surpassed 179,000 on Monday, an increase of nearly eightfold in a week. Hospitalizations, while remaining relatively low, are also beginning to rise in large, heavily populated cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

Physician Ravindra Kumar Dewan, who heads the National Institute of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases in New Delhi, trained for the injection. He said the boosters are a considerable step because much is still unknown about the omicron variant.

Yesterday, mortality… has increased in New Delhi. So, it remains to be seen whether our health system will be overtaken or not, he stressed.

India is now better prepared than last year, when the delta variant overtook hospitals. When cases spiked in March last year, not even 1% of its nearly 1.4 billion population was fully vaccinated. Because of India’s decrepit medical infrastructure, millions of people are likely to have died.

Since then, the government has supported the healthcare system, built oxygen plants and added hospital beds. About 47% of the population is now fully vaccinated and many have antibodies from previous infections.