NEW DELHI: An expert panel on COVID vaccines under the National Technical Advisory on Immunization is discussing the possibility of "restructuring and redesigning" of existing vaccines to make them more potent against the Omicron variant.
The move assumes significance as current vaccines are largely ineffective against preventing infection from Omicron, even though there is some evidence that hospitalisations or deaths may be lower during the ongoing wave, due to vaccinations.
NK Arora, head of COVID Working Group of the NTAGI, told that daily deliberations are on whether the existing vaccines in India can be specifically tailored against Omicron.
"Though our national COVID vaccination drive is getting expanded to provide precaution doses to the most vulnerable population groups, our interest at this point is also to push scientists and companies to redesign the vaccines so that they are better suited against Omicron and reduce transmission rates between vaccinated individuals," he said.
However, he did not specify which are the vaccines that can undergo the rapid restructuring required to target the variant that has triggered a massive wave in the country.
Sources in NTAGI said that Covaxin, for instance, which is made of the original whole inactivated SARS CoV 2 virus, can quickly be subjected to such an experiment.
"Like in some other countries, we too want to assess if the vaccines are changed intrinsically to be more efficient against preventing infection and disease due to Omicron," said the source.
Many international vaccine makers such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have conceded that even three doses of may not be able to curb the rapid spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
In India, there are no results available yet on the effect and efficacy of Covishield and Covaxin - the two vaccines largely used so far - in the context of Omicron.
Other brands also under consideration
Sources said that there are considerations about how can other vaccines such as Corbebax, Novavax and ZyCoVD, can be better utilised to manage Omicron, which is spreading like wildfire