Replying to supplementary questions in the Lok Sabha on Friday, 10 December, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that 86 percent of India’s eligible population had received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines.
Responding to a question raised by MP NK Premachandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), the Minister said, "We all want the country to achieve 100 percent vaccination, and we (MPs) should make people aware about getting vaccinated."
To a question regarding the impact of Omicron on children, the Health Minister said that once the experts gave their opinion, the government would decide on vaccination for those below 18 years.
Mandaviya also informed the Lok Sabha that there were 23 cases of suspected Omicron under observation, and that expert teams were interacting with the patients on a daily basis on matters of treatment. He said that they were also studying the hospitalisation status of patients in other countries, where this new variant was reported in large numbers.
The Health Minister also said that a study on the effectiveness of the vaccines against Omicron was underway, and that a decision on the booster dose would be taken once the experts gave their suggestions.
Several other countries, like the United States (US), have passed regulation on administering booster doses to enhance protection against the new variant.
On 19 November, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorised the use of a single booster of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for all individuals of 18 years and older, after their completion of primary vaccination with any FDA-authorised or approved vaccine.
This authorisation was later extended on 10 December to individuals aged 16 and 17 in the US, at least six months after completing their first two doses.
Meanwhile, France's health ministry has authorised pharmacies across the country to be open on Sundays to accelerate the coverage of booster doses.
WHO Cautions G20 Countries Against Vaccine Hoarding, Booster Doses
The World Health Organization (WHO) on 9 December, cautioned wealthy countries against the hoarding of COVID-19 vaccines in response to the new Omicron variant, reported AFP.
WHO Vaccine Director Dr Kate O’Brien urged wealthy nations to continue donating their additional vaccine supplies and shipments to underserved countries to bridge the vaccine inequity gap.
"As we head into whatever the Omicron situation is going to be, there is a risk that the global supply is again going to revert to high-income countries hoarding vaccines," Dr O’Brien was quoted in AFP.
This comes close on the heels of studies published by vaccine manufacturer Pfizer, which showed that its vaccine produced fewer antibodies against Omicron, and that this deficit could be reversed by the use of a booster shot.
According to the AFP report, Dr O’Brien stated that "additional doses have the benefit to provide added protection against Omicron", while emphasising that it was still "very early days"
(With inputs from AFP, IANS.)