A version of the Covishield vaccine specifically aimed at the Omicron variant of Covid-19 could be considered if there is a need for it, Serum Institute of India Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla said, reported NDTV on Tuesday.
Poonawalla, however, said that it would not be essential that a specific version of the vaccine will be needed to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
The Serum Institute chief made the statement amid rising global concern about the variant, first detected last week in South Africa. The World Health Organization, in a technical briefing to member countries on Monday, said that the variant poses very high risk and is likely to spread globally.
The Serum Institute of India manufactures Oxford-AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine in India under the brand name of Covishield.
Poonawalla told the channel on Tuesday that a decision on developing a specific version of Covishield may be taken in the next two weeks, after more information about the new variant is known.
“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,” he said. “Based on the research, we would know about the third and the fourth dose for us all.”
The Serum Institute CEO, however, quoted a study in medical journal Lancet as saying that the efficacy of Covishield is very high, and the vaccine significantly cuts the chances of hospitalisation and death. He added that if booster doses are needed eventually, the company has sufficient stocks for them, adding that the doses will be available at the same price.
However, Poonawalla told NDTV that the focus as of now should be on administering the first and second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
On Monday, the chairperson of India’s Covid-19 task force NK Arora said that a detailed plan to roll out booster and additional shots for adults and vaccines for children will be announced in two weeks.
However, on November 23, All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director Randeep Guleria had opined that India did not need to roll out booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine for the time being.
Guleria said that presently, the focus must be on injecting more Indians with the first and second doses of the vaccine.