Booster under consideration: Govt after two Omicron cases reported in India

The government said that its priority at present, is to complete the task of administering both doses of the vaccines to the eligible population.
A representational image of a vaccine being administered
A representational image of a vaccine being administered
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Scientific reasoning for booster vaccine doses for COVID-19 is under examination but the priority is to ensure complete vaccination of the eligible population with both doses, the government said on Thursday, December 2. In a press briefing, in which the government also announced the detection of two cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in India, Health Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said, "The scientific reasoning for boosters at what timing for which vaccine is under examination."

"Our priority is the complete task of administering both vaccines and this is the strategy which will give us the best dividend," he said while responding to a question. On the significance of vaccination in view of the new variant, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr VK Paul said despite this new challenge, vaccination remains the most critical tool.

"We are fortunate that we have the tool (vaccination) in plenty and there is no doubt that coverage of vaccines has to increase. Look at the big picture, we have this tool and we must protect every eligible individual with this tool," he said.

"We are benefited by two doses and people should get the second dose as soon as possible. The decision on duration between doses is based on scientific data and local data in a systematic manner, and there is no change in the present duration," Paul said. On breakthrough infections, he said, "We do not see any red flag in breakthrough infections, and we look into it periodically. In the past, we have shown that breakthrough rates are very low and we will provide more information."

On contact tracing approach of individuals detected with Omicron in India, Dr Sujeet Kumar Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control, said the government is tracing three types of contacts - primary, secondary and tertiary. "Remote contacts are also being comes in the state government's domain and state surveillance officers are cooperating for it. In this case — (two cases of Omicron) — the primary, secondary and tertiary contacts have been traced," he said.

Explaining INSACOG's strategy, Singh said, "We have 289 sentinel sites and the samples, which we get from these sentinel sites, we do genomic sequencing on a weekly basis, and any super spreader events we find, clustering of cases, there we do genomic sequencing to ascertain if any new variant has emerged...the new dimension is the airport screening".

As of now, flights have come to nine airports, from where genome samples have been collected and tested, and 30 international airports have been sensitised about any travelling or in transit passengers coming from "at-risk" countries, he said.


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