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Covid: ‘Precautionary’ shot could be of a different vaccine

🔴 Top government sources had told The Indian Express that there is preliminary consensus in the country’s top technical advisory body on Covid vaccination that the next dose should be of a vaccine based on a platform different from that of the first two doses.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi |
Updated: December 26, 2021 5:27:35 pm
As on Saturday, 12.04 crore over the age of 60 have received their first dose of vaccine; and 9.21 crore are fully vaccinated. (File Photo/AP)

The Union Health Ministry Sunday is likely to announce the blueprint for rolling out the “precautionary doses” the Prime Minister announced Saturday. Top government sources, earlier, had told The Indian Express that there is preliminary consensus in the country’s top technical advisory body on Covid vaccination that the next dose should be of a vaccine based on a platform different from that of the first two doses.

Using the label “precautionary,” keeps this window open: that the next shot could be a new vaccine rather than just a third shot.

As on Saturday, 12.04 crore over the age of 60 have received their first dose of vaccine; and 9.21 crore are fully vaccinated. The official data also shows that 1.03 crore healthcare workers have received their first dose, and 96 lakh are fully vaccinated; 1.83 crore frontline workers have received their first dose, and 1.68 crore are fully vaccinated. Which effectively means that more than 11 crore beneficiaries will be eligible for the “precautionary dose”.

“There is some clarity that if an additional dose is given to a beneficiary, it cannot be, at least in case of inactive whole virus or adenovirus vector Covid-19 vaccine, the same vaccine. So the preliminary consensus is that a beneficiary cannot take three doses of Covishield or Covaxin,” sources said.

Sources said it is very likely that the precautionary dose will be a vaccine of a different platform. Multiple options are likely to available in the coming months. First up is the Hyderabad-based Biological E’s Corbevax, a protein sub-unit Covid-19 vaccine.

This differs from the inactivated whole-cell vaccines, by containing only the antigenic parts of the virus, to trigger a protective immune response. Bio E’s vaccine candidate includes an antigen developed by Texas Children’s Hospital Centre for Vaccine Development and is licensed from BCM Ventures, Baylor College of Medicine’s integrated commercialization team.

The Centre has already made an advance payment of Rs 1,500 crore to reserve 30 crore doses of Corbevax. Sources said that Corbevax is expected to get Emergency Use Authorisation in the next two weeks.

The second candidate for a likely third dose, could be Serum Institute of India’s Covovax. This is a recombinant nanoparticle protein-based Covid-19 vaccine. The US-based Novavax and SII have already received EUA for this vaccine in the Philippines.

The third candidate for a likely third dose, could be Bharat Biotech’s intranasal vaccine. Sources said that this vaccine is expected to come in the second half of January.

The fourth candidate for a likely third dose could be India’s first m-RNA Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pune-based Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Ltd.

Earlier, the government, had said that Gennova’s mRNA vaccines are expected to produce 6 crore doses. More significantly, unlike Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccine, this can be stored at India’s immunisation drive’s cold storage requirements (2-8 degrees Celsius).

Experts across the globe are recommending mRNA vaccines as booster doses. In September, after reviewing data on booster responses from different combinations of COVID-19 vaccines, the UK expert body, was the first to advise a preference for Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine to be offered as the third booster dose irrespective of which product was used in the primary schedule.

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