As we stepped into 2022, Omicron cases have been on the rise. In the case of the former variants like Delta and others, the course of two vaccination shots was thought to be sufficient and effective. It is well established that vaccines protect us from getting a severe illness due to Covid but we may still contact the infection. It is believed that the latest, heavily mutated variant has been affecting people at a higher rate, even with two shots of vaccination. In the light of such events, experts believe that ‘booster shots’ may help scale up the immunity provided by the previous two shots that may have diminished over time. This additional booster shot will help trigger the immune response in the body, thus creating more antibodies and helping fight any infections that may have entered the body.
As some Middle-Eastern countries gear up for their plan towards having multiple booster shots, many of us may wonder whether more than one booster shot is necessary to curb the virus from affecting us. In a recent Israeli study, it was found that even the fourth COVID–19 vaccination may only provide limited protection from Omicron and only up to a certain extent. Although booster shots have proven to provide some protection against Omicron, whether additional booster shots give heightened protection against new variants cropping cannot be fully determined as of now.
Despite this, WHO has repeatedly emphasized the importance of people receiving their 1st and 2nd doses in priority because there is ample evidence that vaccination reduces the chances of severe illness and hospitalization.
Vaccines exclusively for Omicron?
Some pharmaceutical companies have reported their plans on creating Omicron-specific vaccination doses. As Omicron cases keep rising throughout the world, the need for such an effective vaccination shot is understandable.
However, by the time the vaccination is administered to people, there may be less need for the same. As things are rolling, new variants can likely be seen within the year. The virus is evolving fast and the time, production and administration of the vaccine shots may not always be able to keep up.
Currently in India, Omicron cases are declining slowly yet steadily. However, if in the near future, an update in vaccine composition occurs, it will be a beneficial step not just to reduce the threat of the existing variants but also for any upcoming newer ones.
The scene in India
Currently, in India, booster shots – (called as precaution doses) are being administered for people above the age of 60 with comorbidities and frontline workers. People with less immunity also are under a serious threat of developing health complications due to COVID and are being advised constantly to follow all necessary precautions sincerely to minimise their risk of exposure to the virus.
What should be done after the booster (or) precaution shot?
Typically, after receiving booster shots, people are expected to follow the norms and precautions against COVID-19 as they had been asked to follow since the beginning of the pandemic. Wearing masks, avoiding crowded areas, home isolation if symptoms are visible and frequent washing of hands is still to be maintained. Being highly communicable, the Omicron variant cannot be completely undermined. The booster shots only provide protection and ramp up immunity in the body only up to a certain extent, thus it is important to keep following the COVID protocols.
The road ahead
As Omicron currently sweeps through the country with infections and death tolls rising each day, India has also sprung up to fight against the virus effectively by administering 150 crore vaccination doses. Vaccination drive for teens aged 15 and above is also running successfully. Soon enough, we may expect vaccines for children of younger age groups as well. It is still difficult to predict the duration of effectiveness of the booster doses and chances of emergence of newer variants in future. The pattern of the virus and its mutations are too frivolous to be followed, hence it is quite impossible to map out whether we need more booster shots in future.
As WHO has brought forth the fact that COVID-19 may be here to stay as the common flu, the virus may also give rise to an endemic, where the virus lives among the people as they start getting used to this new way of life. If such a situation prevails, there may be a regular need for booster doses for people in the future. Until that happens, we must maintain take every possible step to reduce the transmission of virus for the safety of ourselves and others.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.