As India sounds alarm bells over emergence of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla said that Omicron-specific booster shots for Covishield vaccine are a possibility.
In an interview with NDTV, Poonawalla, whose Pune-based company has manufactured Covishield in collaboration with Oxford University and AstraZeneca, indicated that a new booster shot might come out in six months.
"We all need to be prepared that for the next 10 years, we would need to keep taking booster shots – 1 or 2 every year to keep us safe against new variants of COVID-19 in the time to come," he told NDTV.
The SII chief also observed that Covishield's efficacy vis-à-vis Omicron is being researched. He opined that the government should primarily focus on ensuring the double vaccination of the population.
Meanwhile, Dr NK Arora, chairperson of the COVID-19 task force, has said that a comprehensive policy on the booster and additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be announced in two weeks.
Covovax for Kids Should Be Available in 6 Months: Poonawalla
When questioned about a vaccine for children, who hitherto remain outside India's vaccine policy, Poonawalla told NDTV:
"Not Covishield... Covovax should be available in six months. (The) trials are on... no safety issues so far. We have gone down to the age of seven (with) good results..."
He added that it is expected that children as young as two should be able to receive the Covovax vaccine.
On the subject of inoculation for children, Dr NK Arora has indicated that a plan has been developed to vaccinate over 44 crore children.
"National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) is coming up with a comprehensive policy on the booster and additional doses in the next two weeks. The policy will deal with who will require the vaccine, when and how. This needs to be seen in the context that a new variant is coming and with time only we will get to know more information about it. Therefore relevance and effectiveness of the current vaccines will also become apparent with time," Arora was quoted as saying by news agency ANI on Tuesday.
(With inputs from NDTV.)