New Delhi: A consortium of 28 laboratories to monitor genomic variations in Covid-19, in its latest weekly bulletin, recommended the centre to consider booster shots for those who are 40 years and older amid the threat of Omicron, a new variant of concern. India has reported two cases of Omicron infection.
“Vaccination of all remaining unvaccinated at-risk people and consideration of a booster dose for those 40 years of age and over, first targeting the most high-risk and high-exposure may be considered, since low levels of neutralising antibodies from current vaccines are unlikely to be sufficient to neutralise Omicron, although risk of severe disease is still likely to be reduced,” INSACOG said in its weekly bulletin.
Short for Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium, INSACOG checks variations in coronavirus across the nation to help understand how it spreads and evolves, and to suggest the best possible public health response.
“Genomic surveillance will be critical for early detection of the presence of this variant (Omicron) to enable necessary public health measures. Monitoring travel to and from known affected areas, and contact-tracing of COVID-19 cases with an epidemiological link to the affected areas has been implemented along with increased testing (with sequencing of confirmed cases),” the consortium said in its bulletin.
The US and Britain have already cleared booster shots for some age groups.
Top American infectious diseases specialist Anthony Fauci stressed that fully vaccinated adults should seek a booster when eligible to give themselves the best possible protection.
INSACOG said preliminary evidence suggests that Omicron may increase reinfection risk, which is expected from the structural changes due to the mutations, and the number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa, where it was first detected.
One of the two patients who was found infected in India is a 46-year-old fully vaccinated doctor from Bengaluru, who had no travel history and developed symptoms of fever and body ache on November 21. The other confirmed Omicron patient is a 66-year-old South African national who came to India with a negative Covid report.
Meanwhile, speaking in Lok Sabha, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said any decision on administering a booster dose will be taken on a scientific basis and as per the expert committee’s recommendations. “It won’t be a political decision,” he said.