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As cases of highly transferable COVID variant, Omricon, continue to rise across the country, India on January 10 rolled out the benefit of precautionary dose (or booster shot) of COVID vaccine to bolster the pandemic defence. As per reports, the 'third' jab has been launched for priority population as of now, including health care workers, frontline workers along with comorbid citizens aged over 60.

To find out who qualifies for the shot, how to register and all the other details concerning the preventative shot, refer to the following list.

Who is eligible for the precautionary dose?

In accordance with WHO's advice on developing a booster vaccination policy, India has decided to prioritize high-risk citizens for the first rollout of the vaccine. In an official address on December 25, 2021, the Prime Minister said, "The booster shots, or 'precautionary shots' will be started for health care and front-line workers on January 10. Citizens over 60 with comorbidities and other health problems can also take an extra vaccine from January 10."

Should you get the booster dose?

Yes. If you have already completed the initial 2 doses of vaccination, you should get a precautionary shot to retain its efficacy. According to WHO's interim release on 22 December 2021, "Booster shots are available to a population that has completed their primary vaccination series (currently 1 or 2 doses, depending on the product) when, with time, the immunity and protection offered by the vaccine, has fallen below a rate deemed sufficient in that population.The objective of a booster dose is to restore vaccine effectiveness from that deemed no longer sufficient and to restore the efficiency of the vaccine's protection against the virus."

How safe is it to take the third dose?

Phase 2 of a randomised clinical trial was conducted recently to assess the safety and effectiveness of 7 vaccines as the 3rd dose/booster shot after the primary 2 vaccinations of either Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Of them, around 6 were found effective in significantly increasing antibody response at 28 days after the booster.

The side effects caused by the vaccines were mostly tolerable and in general, involved injection site soreness or pain, headaches and fatigue. The study concluded that there seems to be a considerable difference in the immune response and the side effects produced by these 'third' shots.

No data as such could be found about Bharat Biotech- Covaxin, so if you are still unsure about the safety of the third dose, we would recommend checking with a doctor before getting inoculated.

These vaccines are more of the means to effectively retain the efficiency of your first 2 doses and stop the effects from weaning out. Think of it as an extra shield to protect yourself when your last shield is worn out from fighting a long battle.

Can I take mix match vaccines for my booster shot?

No. It is not possible to to change your vaccine for the third dose. Dr VK Paul, Head of India's COVID Task force said, "There will be no mix-and-match of vaccines for those eligible to get a 'precautionary' third dose." This means that citizens who opted for Serum Institute's Covishield will get the third dose of the same, while those who opted for Bharat Biotech's Covaxin will be eligible to only get the third dose of Covaxin only.

What is the ideal gap between the 2nd and 3rd dose ?

Reports claimed that the gap between the second dose and the third dose is likely to be 9 -12 months. Although research on the required ideal duration and its nitty-gritty is still ongoing and the details of minimum duration are expected to come soon. According to a WHO report, the efficacy of the vaccine starts to wean off after 6 months.

Where to register for the booster dose?

There is no need to re-register on the CoWin portal for the booster dose. Eligible citizens can easily schedule their vaccination appointment from the same account that they used while booking their first 2 doses. At some places, walk-ins are also allowed.

India has already successfully begun rolling out vaccines for children aged 15-17 from January 3rd 2022. According to the CoWin dashboard, over 2.7 lakh children have been vaccinated as of Tuesday, January 11 2022.

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