NEW DELHI: The Centre on Friday said it anticipates the severity of the Omicron variant of Coronavirus to be low in the country given the fast pace of vaccination and high exposure to the Delta variant, a day after the first two cases of the new variant was reported in Karnataka, and that a decision on a COVID vaccine booster dose will be on the basis of scientific guidance from experts.
The Union Health Ministry, however, said the scientific evidence for the expected severity of the disease is still evolving, as debates about the booster jabs heat up and several states ramp up testing and step up surveillance for the potentially more contagious variant.
It also noted there is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work on the new variant that was reported by South Africa to the World Health Organisation(WHO) on November 24.
After several Lok Sabha members flagged the issue of booster doses of COVID vaccines and expressed concern over the new variant of the virus during the debate, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said a decision on a booster dose and vaccines for children will be taken on the basis of scientific guidance from experts.
In a written reply to Lok Sabha, Mandaviya said the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) and the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID19 (NEGVAC) are deliberating and considering scientific evidences related to this aspect.
The minister’s remarks came against the backdrop of the assessment by the country’s top genome scientists that a booster dose may be considered for people above 40 years.
Vaccination of all remaining unvaccinated atrisk people and consideration of a booster dose for those 40 years of age and over, first targeting the most high-risk / high-exposure may be considered, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Sequencing Consortium (INSACOG) said in its weekly bulletin dated November 29. The INSACOG is a network of national testing labs set up by the government to monitor genomic variations of COVID-19.
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