INSACOG Denies Suggesting Covid-19 Booster Shots, Says Vaccine Decision Not Its Mandate

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INSACOG, a national consortium of government institutions involved in genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus, has denied “recommending or suggesting” booster doses for those aged 40 and above.

In its latest weekly bulletin posted on the Department of Biotechnology’s website, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) emphasised that the decision on vaccines does not fall under its ambit and many more scientific experiments are needed to assess the impact of the booster dose.

It said that the discussion on boosters is being monitored by expert groups – National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) and National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) – formed by the central government, and that INSACOG has no role to play.

In a move to step up vigil against the heavily mutated Omicron variant, the consortium tasked with genome sequencing in India had said in a bulletin dated November 29 that “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…”

Explaining the reasoning behind the suggestion, it said “…since low levels of neutralising antibodies from current vaccines are unlikely to be sufficient to neutralise Omicron, although risk of severe disease is still likely to be reduced.”

However, in the latest bulletin dated December 4, INSACOG clarified that it was not a “recommendation or suggestion”.

“In view of the emerging evidence from South Africa and some other countries about its substantial ability to evade immunity from previous infection with Covid variants and consequently risk of reinfection with Omicron, there was a discussion about the potential role of additional dose of the Covid-19 vaccines in high risk populations in the INSACOG Bulletin of 29th November 2021,” it said, adding that “however, this was not a recommendation or suggestion for booster dose in the national immunisation program.”

The bulletin further emphasised that “immunity and protection from SARS-CoV-2 is multifactorial with several unknown factors and further compounded by emerging variants of concern”.

“Many more scientific experiments are needed to assess the impact of booster dose, which are being guided and monitored by National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) and National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC).”

“The recommendations and suggestions regarding vaccines, schedule, and rollout comes under expressed mandate of NTAGI and the NEGVAC.”

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