BENGALURU, Dec 2 (Reuters) – India reported its first two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant on Thursday but the government said it had no immediate plan to authorise booster vaccine shots despite demands from lawmakers in parliament.
The health ministry said two male patients with the new COVID-19 variant, aged 66 and 46 years, were showing mild symptoms but declined to provide their vaccine or travel history, citing their privacy.
“All primary contacts and secondary contacts of both the cases have been traced and are being tested,” health official Lav Agarwal told a news briefing, adding the men were in the southern state of Karnataka.
Local media reported that five contacts of one of the men had also tested positive for the variant.
India, which suffered a record surge in infections and deaths in April and May due to the Delta variant, has fully vaccinated about 49% of its 944 million adults despite having ample supplies of domestically made shots.
About 84% have received at least one dose, while those under 18 have yet to be inoculated.
Several lawmakers urged the government on Thursday to consider boosters for healthcare workers and the elderly given that states had a stockpile of nearly 230 million vaccine doses.
But health officials reiterated the priority was to fully inoculate all adults first, and urged those overdue for their shots to get vaccinated.
“We must not deviate from our goal of administering two doses in each eligible individual,” said senior health official Vinod Kumar Paul, adding there was no plan to shorten the duration between two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
India mandates an unusually long gap of 12-16 weeks between the first two vaccine doses, which accounts for nearly 90% of the 1.25 billion total doses given in the country.
There were 9,765 new cases on Thursday, taking India’s total to 34.61 million. Deaths rose by 477 to 469,724.
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