The number of COVID-19 cases are on the rise again. The world is preparing for a third wave of the Corona pandemic. During these times of uncertainty, the COVID-19 vaccines and the COVID booster shot have become our only hope. On Christmas day 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the vaccination registration for the booster dose would begin on January 10, 2022. India has come up with some guidelines for the booster dose also known as the precaution dose. But first, let us know:
What is a COVID booster dose?
Simply speaking, the COVID booster dose is another dose of the vaccine. While vaccines are the best defense we have right now against the rapidly spreading third wave of COVID-19, their capacity to protect our bodies weakens with time. Their effectiveness drops faster among the older population and people with comorbidities(explained below). A booster dose is usually administered in diseases where immunity reduces. The first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine primes the body. The second dose boosts the immune system. In both the shots, memory cells (that remember the virus) are produced, and they help in case the virus re-infects the body. They are produced more in number with the second dose and help in fighting the virus even when the antibody levels reduce over time. If these memory cells are enhanced with a COVID booster vaccine dose, they will induce a stronger immune response. More antibodies will be produced and these antibodies will have affinity maturation (solid bond with increased strength).
The side effects of the booster dose are reported to be similar to the previous two doses like fever, muscle pains, headache, pain, or swelling. Any unusual side effects or symptoms extending beyond a couple of days should be reported immediately.
Who is eligible to take the Precautionary Booster Dose?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines that booster doses are to be given to organ transplant recipients or patients with compromised immune systems. This is because, for them, the response to the first doses is less compared to the general population. Though they are vaccinated with two doses, one study has shown that there is an increased rate of infections after vaccination in these individuals.
Starting from 10th January 2022, the booster dose has been administered to the frontline workers and senior citizens in India. Our social helpers such as Healthcare workers, Nurses, Doctors, etc, and Senior citizens who are above 60 years with comorbidities. According to the new guidelines, it is mandatory to take the booster dose after the completion of 9 months or 39 weeks of the second dose of the COVID Vaccine. Eligible candidates can directly visit the COVID-19 vaccination center to get the booster dose or schedule an online appointment through the CoWIN portal .
What are the Comorbidities?
The list of comorbidities includes a recent history of heart failure, Valvular Heart Disease, Coronary Artery Disease, Diabetes and Hypertension, Kidney/ Liver/ Hematopoietic stem cell transplant, Decompensated cirrhosis, Sickle Cell Disease, HIV infection, and many other conditions that enhance the risk of mortality in COVID-19 disease. Senior citizens with comorbidities are not required to produce any certificate or prescription from the doctor for the precaution dose.
Covishield or Covaxin?
The precautionary jab will be of the same vaccine as the first two doses. No mix and match are allowed, unlike in other countries. For example, people who have taken two doses of COVISHIELD (manufactured by Serum Institute of India) are advised to take the COVISHIELD booster shot and those who have taken COVAXIN (manufactured by Bharat Biotech International Ltd) should go for the COVAXIN booster shot.
No clinical studies have been conducted in India on mixing vaccines so far. The vaccine effectiveness of mixed jabs is being widely discussed, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) has evaluated international data. Data from some countries have raised concerns about safety due to high expected adverse effects in some people after receiving a different booster dose from the first two doses. But we cannot apply the data of the United Kingdom population to India. Unless a trial is conducted here, and it has positive results, we cannot and should not mix doses.
Booster Vaccine Registration
It is advised to register on CoWIN to make it easier to get a fixed slot for this booster vaccination dose. CoWIN will send reminder messages to all eligible candidates. Indian Citizens who are eligible for the third dose of vaccination can register themselves through the CoWIN portal and get the booster dose
Pre-booking a slot on Cowin will also ensure you are going in at a fixed time and leaving quickly, which is ideal given the rising cases of Covid-19. The Indian Health Ministry has clarified that new registrations would not be necessary while booking an online appointment, an individual can directly register for it by logging the old registered account.
The government has said that consulting a doctor before jabbing the precaution is not required, but, if an individual wants they can. 148 vaccination centers are established throughout India to vaccinate citizens eligible for the booster or precaution dose.
Follow these steps to register for the booster dose:
- Open the CoWIN portal or the Aarogya Setu app.
- Tap on the vaccination tab.
- Log in with the mobile number, which you have used for previous registration.
- If someone else registered on your behalf, please ask them for a One-Time Password (OTP) when using that particular mobile number. (Remember, up to 4 people can be registered using the same mobile number on the Cowin portal.)
- After you have logged in, you will likely see your name and profile.
- The system will show the slots for Precaution Dose in the Appointments Module (It will show only if 39 weeks have passed after administration of your full vaccination, which is nine months).
- Tap on the ‘Precaution dose’ tab and then choose appointments.
- Choose the appointment based on your location, Pincode, etc and tap/click on Book appointment.
- The appointment should get confirmed and details can be downloaded from the app.
- You will be able to download the digital vaccination certificates after the vaccination.
One has to be attentive and follow the safety protocol because vaccination alone can not be enough to fight the pandemic and the emerging variants. Along with booster doses, the government of India has also permitted the administration of COVAXIN in children aged 15 years and above, from 3rd January 2022. They can register themselves through the same portal for their first vaccine jab.
Registering on Cowin for the first time?
Follow the steps:
- Open the CoWIN portal or the Aarogya Setu app.
- You will be required to enter the photo ID type, number, full name, gender, and age.
- For the photo ID, you can choose from a Driving License, Aadhaar Card, or even Passport as photo ID proof.
- After the registration is done, you will be taken to the “Book Appointment for Vaccination” page.
- Enter details like State/UT, Pincode, etc, and search.
- A list of vaccination centers will appear depending on your location.
- Choose your required time and date and book an appointment.
Keep in mind that CoWIN recommends that users should carry their registered mobile phone, Photo ID to the appointment. Also, a session once booked cannot be canceled, but it can be rescheduled. Once your appointment is confirmed, an SMS will also come with details confirming the same.
When the world became aware of the new variant of concern 'OMICRON' which was identified in South Africa in November 2021, the whole world started making preparations to fight against it. With the new surge in the COVID-19 cases, the booster dose seems to be a sigh of relief. Amid the fear of the third wave of COVID-19, the initiative of the third dose of vaccine will help the health workers the most. They are the only ones who don’t step back even during the pandemic. During the second wave, many lives were lost. To stay safe, healthy, and save lives, a booster vaccine is important. It has proven to be effective and safe, and everyone is advised to get jabbed.