The World Health Organisation’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunisation will meet on December 7 to discuss the evidence on the need for booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines and also the recommendations for the same.
Currently, the WHO’s position is that “the evidence remains limited and still inconclusive on any widespread need for booster doses following a primary vaccination series”.
There is a growing chorus for the need to start vaccinating the vulnerable population given the new threat of the fifth variant of concern, Omicron, and concerns are growing with regard to waning immunity and risk of severe disease.
In India, INSACOG, a consortium of laboratories undertaking genome sequencing, has said that booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines must be considered for those above the age of 40 in the country.
“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 current vaccines are unlikely to be sufficient to neutralize Omicron, although risk of severe disease is still likely to be reduced,” INSACOG said in its weekly bulletin.
The INSACOG bulletin also states that there is preliminary evidence that Omicron may increase reinfection risk, which is expected from the structural changes due to the mutations. The number of cases of the Omicron variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa, it said.
Meanwhile, the Centre told Parliament on Friday that science will guide its final take on Covid boosters.
The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), the body that drafts the policies on vaccine administration, is also deliberating on the issue. The NTAGI is looking at proposing boosters or the third dose or the additional dose in the immune-compromised population of India.
The recommendations are not in the public domain.