Booster Dose Policy For Special Cases Soon: Covid Panel Chief To NDTV

The policy will be formulated by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation -- along with another one on vaccinating the country's 44 crore children.

Covid Panel Chief Dr NK Arora said a booster means 94 crore doses.

New Delhi:

A comprehensive policy on additional Covid vaccine doses for immunocompromised people will be drawn up over the next two weeks, Dr NK Arora, chairman of the country's Covid Task Force, has told NDTV. The policy will be formulated by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation -- along with another one on vaccinating the country's 44 crore children. The prioritisation process is in progress, so children with comorbidities are given the vaccine first, he said.

Asked about a booster dose of the vaccine for the elderly -- which is now being given in several nations -- especially in view of the emergence of the new Covid variant Omicron, Mr Arora said a booster means 94 crore doses "which itself cannot be done overnight".

He, however, asserted that there is no shortage of doses in the country.

Pointing out that even now, 12 to 15 crore Indians have not received a single dose of vaccine and 30 crore people have not received their second doses, he said the need of the hour is to push ahead with their vaccination which is the "most important and effected tool and completed on a priority basis".

Also, in view of the new variant, it is essential to see how it fares against the existing vaccines, of which India has a large pool. 

Also, one needs to take into account a country's epidemiological condition, which is unique, he said.

"We are waiting for the next two weeks or so where labs across the country, some of which are our own labs are working on the effectiveness of the immune response elicited by our current vaccines, Covaxin, Covishield and other vaccines with the (new variant) of the virus and what extent of the virus neutralisation takes place," he said.

India is yet to report any case of Omicron, which recently surfaced in South Africa. Suspected cases have been reported from a few other nations.

Two South African nationals who arrived in Bengaluru tested positive for Covid earlier this month. One of them has been found to be infected by the Delta strain.

The other has tested positive for a Covid strain "different than Delta", Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar has said, adding that the test samples have been sent for genome sequencing and further examination. The state government, he said, is closely looking at the Omicron strain.

Earlier yesterday, Dr Samiran Panda, head of Epidemiology at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), told NDTV that it is possible that Omicron - a highly infectious variant -- is already in India and it may be a matter of time before it is detected.

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