Now that the number of cases continues to decline, the Indian government has not considered administering a booster vaccine. Three sources told Reuters it was based on high levels of natural infections and the government believes for now two doses of the vaccine are enough to protect the population from the next outbreak.
As vaccine supplies increased, some Indian doctors and public health experts urged the government to start rolling out booster vaccine programs in the most vulnerable groups as western countries have done. Indonesia has also given booster vaccines to health workers.
One of the sources involved in discussions over India's vaccine policy said authorities were concentrating more on completing a two-dose vaccine program for 944 million adults by January before refocusing their focus on export expansion.
So far, 81 percent of Indian adults have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. 43 percent have received the full vaccine. Vaccines for the under-18 age group have not yet started.
"The priority is to fully immunize the adult population," one of the sources said on Tuesday. The sources declined to name them because the issue is still being discussed by policymakers.
"Most people are already infected naturally and for them two doses of vaccine is enough. That's why even though we recently held festivals, the number of cases of infection did not rise," he explained.
Sources said when all adults are fully vaccinated the government will open up options on booster vaccines. India's Health Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In April and May this year the number of cases of Covid-19 infection and death in India became the highest in the world. Government surveys showed in July that about 70 percent of Indians had been infected naturally.
The country has recorded 34.5 million cases of infection and 465,000 cases of coronavirus-related deaths. India has the second highest positive number in the world after the United States. Although India held two of their biggest festivals of the year, Diwali and Durga Puja, in October and November the number of cases of infection fell to its lowest point in recent months.
Many Western countries are expanding booster vaccine programs even in communities that don't have immune problems. The move was criticized by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Indian vaccine companies such as serum institute of India, which produces AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines, hope the government will allow booster vaccines as early as next year. Pharmaceutical company Dr. Reddy's Laboratories said it was already talking to India's drug regulator to be able to sell the Russian vaccine Sputnik Light as a booster dose.
As of Monday morning India had 216 million vaccine supplies. Since April, India's vaccine production has tripled to about 300 million a month.