PUNE: A top central official has said that India is set to introduce new vaccines that may later be added as boosters to top up protection against Covid-19. Dr NK Arora, chairperson of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), told TOI on Tuesday that two new “made-in-India” vaccines will soon be available on CoWIN — an mRNA shot and an intranasal vaccine.
“The Indian mRNA shot is the only one in its category that can be stored and transported at 2-8°C. Similarly, the intranasal vaccine is easier to administer. These vaccines can be given as the primary doses and, when we get enough data, can also be introduced as heterologous boosters,” Dr Arora said
On deaths linked to Covid still being reported, Dr Arora said fatalities currently were mainly among those hospitalised with underlying conditions such as chronic heart disease, kidney disease, cancer and lung disease.
“Essentially, these individuals were hospitalised for another disease but went on to test positive for Covid. Covid causing severe disease is very uncommon, mainly occurring in individuals who have underlying diseases,” he said.
According to the heterologous schedule, people who have taken two doses of Covishield or Covaxin have the option of taking a different vaccine as the third shot.
Dr Arora, however, said booster coverage needs to improve in the country. “People should take the booster dose to augment dropping antibody levels, especially if the primary two doses were taken more than six months ago. There is still a large percentage of people who have not taken their precaution dose,” he said, adding that data has shown that nearly 90% of people who were admitted to hospitals with Covid recently had not taken the booster.
“Most of these patients also had underlying conditions,” he said.
Dr Arora also offered his opinion on WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s recent statement that “the end of the pandemic was in sight”. The NTAGI chief said the disease in India was indeed transitioning into regular influenza, with no new variants associated with severe disease spotted in over nine months now. He said that Omicron sub-variants have emerged, but hospitalisations and deaths continue to be low.
Importantly, he added that India was moving towards a point where people would be able to get back to their normal routines.
He, however, urged people to keep up precautionary measures. “Covid is still very much around us and we have to continue being cautious, at least for some more time,” he said.