“We will review the programme in December end. The picture will be clearer then in terms of Omicron. At present our priority is to maximise coverage of second dose among adults, which includes people who are at risk also,” the official said.
Till Wednesday, over 135 crore doses were administered across the country. While 87.5% of the adult population have received at least first dose, around 56% are fully covered with two doses.
The deliberation in the month end will also include evaluation of data of Omicron cases detected through genome sequencing, breakthrough infection and hospitalisation.
“Once majority of the adult population are protected with two dose against severe disease and mortality, we can evaluate whether there is a need to give booster to those who are at high risk or high exposure. Any such decision has to be based on scientific evidence and not just because there is a new variant,” the official said.
The scientific advisory groups of the government including the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) and the Indian Council of Medical Research are actively considering evidence to start booster or third dose for high-risk people including those who are immunocompromised, elderly and healthcare workers.
Officials say vaccinations for children may have to wait given that there is limited availability of vaccines and if it is a choice to be made between booster and child immunisation, third dose for those who are at high risk is likely to be given a priority.
Also, at present, booster shots are being considered only for select population and not all adults.
The World Health Organisation in its recent technical update on Omicron said there is some preliminary evidence that the incidence of reinfection has increased in South Africa, which may be associated with humoral (antibody-mediated) immune evasion. However, there is still uncertainty.
Besides, evidence suggests unvaccinated people have at least 10 times higher risk of death from Covid-19 than someone who has been vaccinated.