Covishield’s efficacy on Omicron being studied, booster shot likely: Poonawalla

The Serum Institute chief, however, said that the government’s focus currently should be to provide the first and second jabs of the vaccine to the unvaccinated population

Adar Poonawalla
Serum Institute of India's CEO Adar Poonawalla | File Photo

Amid questions on the ability of Covishield to protect people against the Omicron variant, Serum Institute of India’s chief Adar Poonawalla has said that scientists at Oxford are analyzing the vaccine’s efficacy and that a booster shot is being mulled just for the new variant.

“Scientists at Oxford are also continuing their research, and based on their findings, we may come out with a new vaccine which would act as a booster in six months’ time. Based on the research, we would know about the third and the fourth dose for us all,” Poonawalla told a reputed media house.

Pointing to a new Lancet study which said that Covishield remained effective against moderate-to-severe COVID-19 and had 63 per cent efficient against the virus in fully vaccinated people during the surge of the Delta variant in India, Poonawalla said there is little chance that this efficacy would reduce with time.

Also read: No Omicron case yet in India: Centre asks states to ramp up testing

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He said the company has enough stock if the government announces a booster dose.

“We have hundreds of millions of stock in our campus. We have over 200 million doses reserved for states and Union territories in India. So, if the government is to announce a booster dose, we are well stocked,” he said, adding that the booster shot will be available at the same price.

He, however, said that the current priority should be to provide the first and second doses to the unvaccinated population.

“The message for all – and a priority – is for everyone to get the two doses of the vaccine. This is the first step to stay protected. It is only after that that one can enhance that safety with boosters over the next year…The focus of the government must remain to get everyone double vaccinated,” he said.

While India has not reported any cases of the Omicron variant, the Centre on Tuesday issued a new set of rules for international travelers, effective from midnight. As per the new rules, passengers from ‘at-risk’ countries like South Africa, Israel, Botswana, Hong Kong and Australia among others, will be tested for COVID on arrival and undergo home quarantine for seven days if they test negative. Positive individuals will be isolated and treated and their samples will be sent to INSACOG laboratories for genome sequencing. The contacts of these patients will be traced for 14 days.

Also read: The big question: Can RT-PCR test detect Omicron variant of COVID?

The list of ‘at risk’ countries include South Africa, all European countries, United Kingdom, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.

 

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