Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya. Photo: PTI
New Delhi: There is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work against the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, though some of the mutations reported on the spike gene may decrease their efficacy, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Tuesday.
“There are limited available data, and no peer-reviewed evidence, on vaccine efficacy or effectiveness to date for omicron,” Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said in a written reply.
He was responding to a question on whether the vaccines that are given in the country are effective to develop immunity against this variant.
“However, vaccine protection is also by antibodies as well as by cellular immunity, which is expected to be relatively better preserved. Hence vaccines are expected to still offer protection against severe disease and, vaccination with the available vaccines remains crucial,” he added.
Listing the steps taken by the government to prevent the spread of the omicron variant, Mandaviya said his ministry on the basis of risk assessment reviewed the existing travel guidelines and revised rules for international arrivals were issued on November 28 which were further amended two days later.
According to the guidelines, regions or countries have been re-classified as ‘at-risk’ based on the epidemiological situation of COVID-19 there and reporting of the omicron variant from these countries.
The list of such ‘at-risk’ regions or countries is dynamic in nature and has been updated from time to time. All travellers coming from countries deemed ‘at-risk’ will also mandatorily undergo COVID-19 testing on arrival through RT-PCR, followed by mandatory home quarantine for seven days, Mandaviya said.
A repeat RT-PCR testing shall also be done on the eighth day of their arrival in India to be monitored by state health authorities. Additionally, 2% of travellers from ‘non-at-risk’ countries will be tested at random for COVID-19.
Individuals who have tested positive shall be subjected to Whole Genomic Sequencing at identified INSACOG network laboratories to determine the presence of SARS-CoV-2 variants (including omicron).
States and union territories have been asked to undertake several activities which include strict monitoring of international travellers in the community, contact tracing of positive individuals and follow up for 14 days, genome sequencing of positive samples through INSACOG Labs in a prompt manner, Mandaviya said.