After favouring booster dose for 40+, INSACOG says ‘more experiments required’

In its previous health bulletin, the country's top genome sequencing body had recommended that a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine for those 40 years of age and above “may be considered”.
Health worker filling a syringe with Covishield vaccine dose. (HT FILE PHOTO)
Health worker filling a syringe with Covishield vaccine dose. (HT FILE PHOTO)
Published on Dec 05, 2021 08:33 AM IST
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By | Written by Sharmita Kar | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh, New Delhi

Amid the Omicron scare and a rising demand for booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, the country's top genome sequencing body on Saturday went back on its recommendation for booster shots for people above 40 years and said many more scientific experiments are required to assess its impact.

In its latest health bulletin, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) said that the mention of the booster dose was merely a “discussion about the potential role of additional dose of Covid-19 vaccines in high-risk populations” and the recommendation was not for the India's immunisation programme,

In its previous bulletin dated November 29, the INSACOG had said that a booster dose for those 40 years of age and over, first targeting the most high-risk / high-exposure “may be considered”.

"Many more scientific experiments are needed to assess the impacts of booster dose, which are being guided and monitored by National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) and National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC),” said the INSACOG.

It also made it clear that the recommendations and suggestions regarding vaccines, schedule, and roll-out came under the expressed mandate of NTAGI and NEGVAC.

INSACOG's statement comes a day after Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya told the Lok Sabha during the Parliament Winter Session that a decision on booster doses and vaccines for kids would be taken on the basis of scientific advice. He said that the focus of the vaccination drive would be to expand the coverage of the second dose.

During the debate in the Lok Sabha on the Covid pandemic, several lawmakers had suggested a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccines for the elderly, immunocompromised and health workers who work in high-risk environments.

Notably, NTAGI is expected to meet next week to assess about the need for a booster jab – whether there is adequate data on waning immunity, where the effects of the vaccine wear off over a period of time.

NITI Aayog member (health) Dr V K Paul had also said that despite the new challenge of Omicron variant, a full vaccination with two doses remained the most critical tool against Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the INSACOG said that genomic surveillance will be critical for the early detection of the presence of Omicron variant, to enable necessary public health measures.

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