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INSACOG recommends booster dose for 40 plus population amid Omicron threat

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New Delhi, Dec 3, 2021- The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium or the INSACOG has said that a booster vaccine dose for people above 40 years of age ‘may be considered’ amid the rising threat of new Covid variant Omicron.

INSACOG in its latest bulletin said, “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 / high-exposure may be considered, since low levels of neutralising antibodies from the current vaccines are unlikely to be sufficient to neutralise Omicron, although risk of severe disease is still likely to be reduced.”

The Genetics Consortium has said that the 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.

“In some PCR tests, such as Thermo TaqPath, one of the three target genes is not detected. Such a phenomenon was previously seen for Alpha, which is currently not in active circulation and thus SGTF can be used as a marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation”, said INSACOG adding that the mutation spectrum of Omicron is predictive of high transmissibility”.

However, it has also been said that while there is initial suggestion that this variant may have a growth advantage over Delta, growth advantage is not the same as higher transmissibility, especially when there is prior immunity in the community.

It has also been highlighted in the bulletin that the vaccination of all those who are unvaccinated yet and are aceat-risk.” It said that while the antibodies from the current vaccines are unlikely to be sufficient to neutralise the Omicron variant, the risk of severe disease caused due to the variant is likely to be reduced. INSACOG has underlined genomic surveillance critical for the early detection of the variant and would help in enabling the necessary public health measures.

However, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), had said last month that a policy on the booster and additional doses of the vaccine could be expected in two weeks.  (Agency)

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