New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director-general Dr Balram Bhargava on Monday said that there is "no scientific evidence" to show that a booster shot of an anti-COVID-19 vaccine is needed, underlining that completion of a second dose for the adult population is India's top priority now.

"Administering the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adult population and ensuring that not only India but the entire world gets vaccinated is the priority of the government for now," he told news agency PTI. "More so, there is no scientific evidence so far to support the need for a booster vaccine dose against COVID-19".

Dr Bhargava's statement comes days after Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that the Centre would decide on booster shots following a recommendation by the experts. "The government cannot take a direct decision in such a matter. When the ICMR and expert team will say that a booster dose should be given, we will consider it then," Mandaviya was quoted as saying by PTI.

Sources, quoted by Reuters, have said that the Centre is currently not in a mood for booster shots despite recommendations from some doctors and public health experts in India. The Reuters sources said that India wants to concentrate on completing vaccinating its 944 million adults by January.

"The priority is to fully immunise the adult population," the Reuters sources said. "A big majority has been naturally infected, and for them two doses are enough. That's why we are seeing that even after recent festivals, cases are not rising".

What is the world's stand on booster shots?

Though India is not keen on giving booster shots unless all adults are fully vaccinated, several developed countries, including the United States (US), has recommended them. Most recently, the US had approved booster shots for all adults aged 18 and above who had received either a dose of the Pfizer or Moderna anti-COVID vaccines.

Besides the US, Austria, Germany and Italy are offering booster shots to all adults. Sweden and Spain, on the other hand, are inoculating certain population groups with booster shots. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom (UK), Israel, Turkey, South Korea, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil are also administering booster shots to vulnerable groups.

What the WHO is saying?

The World Health Organisation (WHO), however, is against booster shots and said that evidence for their need "remains limited and inconclusive". It has also criticised countries that are offering booster shots, asking them vaccines must be provided to developing countries first.

"In the context of ongoing global vaccine supply constraints, broad-based administration of booster doses risks exacerbating inequities in vaccine access by driving up demand and diverting supply while priority populations in some countries, or in subnational settings, have not yet received a primary vaccination series," it has said.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma