Despite fears of a fourth COVID-19 wave, demand for the third precautionary vaccine drops.

Only a handful of adults in India have chosen to get injected with COVID-19 vaccines, almost two months after all adults wereeligible for the third precautionary dose.

Data from the health ministry indicates that less than seven lakh individuals (out of around 3.55 crore eligible people) have gotten the jab since the Union Health Ministry expanded its ongoing inoculation drive on April 10. Experts now say that Indians could be grappling with vaccine fatigue – a reluctance to take a booster shot that experts attribute to a combination of fear, confusion and misinformation.Health Ministry data on Saturday morning indicated that a total of 6,67,960 people between the ages of 18 and 59 have taken the third dose till date. Within this, there are less than 1.5 lakh people belonging to the 18-44 age bracket. This number does not include healthcare and frontline workers who had become eligible for the third dose earlier this year.

Official data however indicates that over 3.55 crore people had become eligible for a third jab till April 26 – a number that has only risen since then. Broken down further, this would also mean that despite more than 66 lakh people between 18-44 years of age being eligible, only 148084 have opted for the vaccine.What is the reason behind the subdued vaccination demand?Even as cases in India rise yet again, many are opting to remain un-boosted in India. Experts attribute this to several reasons including the fear of adverse effects, the view that COVID-19 is now a mild infection and doubts over whether a precaution dose is indeed useful against Omicron and newly emerged variants. With people having been told for a long time that full vaccination meant two doses, the term precaution dose has also added to the confusion..”I get a number of questions for clarification on booster doses — hence I know that the ‘educational activity’ of the government that wants to prevent COVID-19 deaths, hospitalisations and severe symptoms by completing the vaccination schedule in highly vulnerable people was more confusing than clarifying, top virologist Dr T Jacob John.

Apart from the confusing “cacophony of new experts”, healthcare officials say ignorance and complacency also play a role. With 96% of the adult population vaccinated with the first dose and 85% of the eligible population inoculated with the second dose many have not bothered to take time out to go to a vaccination centre. Meanwhile, others may feel that all is well – unaware of the protection vaccines provide against severe hospitalisation and death.The large number of misinformation campaigns launched by anti-vaxxers such as campaigns about children developing liver failure and developing clots and people dying of vaccines had played a role in the reluctance. “…and because the Omicron wave has been not a very dangerous one, it is adding to the vaccine fatigue,” said Ikris Pharma Network CEO Praveen Sikri.