The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium earlier this week recommended that administering a booster dose of coronavirus vaccines to people above 40 years of age should be considered.

The consortium, responsible for monitoring genome sequencing of coronavirus cases in India, made the recommendation in its weekly bulletin on November 29, three days before it confirmed the first cases of the Omicron variant in India.

“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, since low levels of neutralising anti-bodies from current vaccines are unlikely to be sufficient to neutralise Omicron, although risk of severe disease is still likely to be reduced,” the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium, or INSACOG said.

Anurag Agrawal, a member of INSACOG, said that the recommendation reflects the World Health Organization’s stance about first inoculating unvaccinated people and then considering booster doses based on evidence, The Hindu reported.

“The INSACOG isn’t an advisory body,” he said. “The evidence right now about potential immune escape, vaccination breakthroughs and possible booster need, is all that we have conveyed. In a few more weeks we’ll have better information on whether Omicron is linked to increased disease severity.”

On Thursday, Joint Secretary in the Union health ministry Lav Agarwal said that while the scientific rationale for booster doses was still under examination, the priority was to ensure complete inoculation of the eligible population with both doses, PTI reported.

“...This is the strategy which will give us the best dividend,” Agarwal said.

The Union government said on Thursday that two cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus have been detected in Karnataka. Agarwal told the media that all their contacts have been identified and they are under monitoring.

The Indian Council of Medical Research chief Dr Balram Bhargava said that there was no need to panic but maintaining awareness was essential.

On November 29, India’s Covid-19 task force Chairman NK Arora said that a detailed plan to roll out booster and additional doses for adults and vaccines or children will be announced in two weeks.

The new strain of coronavirus called Omicron was first found in South Africa on November 24. The World Health Organization classified the variant, also known as the B.1.1.529 strain, as a variant of concern on November 27.

A “variant of concern” has the highest threat perception among other coronavirus variants because of its increased transmissibility, infectivity, or resistance to vaccines