Is Omicron going to Upend Lives in India?

Creator: DIPTENDU DUTTA | Credit: AFP via Getty Images

This article deals with the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus two and the threats posed by it. This article will also help you to understand the measures being put in place by India to help prepare the country to deal with the fallout of the Omicron threat.

See, the Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa, has spread very quickly around the world and has even led to a surge of infections in several countries. After being classified as a variant of concern by the WHO, many countries rushed to bring back restrictions in order to prevent the spread of Omicron from southern Africa to other parts of the world. But despite the restrictions and the strict measures, this variant of the virus has already spread to more than 100 countries and is said to have the potential to trigger the next wave of infections. In fact, we are already witnessing this across Europe, in countries such as the United Kingdom, Denmark and as well as in the United States, where the Delta variant has already been overtaken by the Omicron variant.

There are two major concerns with regard to this Omicron variant.

1. It is highly transmissible as compared to the previous Delta variant and is said to be nearly three times more transmissible than the Delta variant. In several countries where the next surge is being witnessed, the doubling time of the cases has come down to just around two days, which means the number of cases is doubling once every two days. So this high transmissible rate of the Omicron variant has already started burdening the health care system in several countries, including those across Europe, Africa and North America.
2. The Omicron variant has been able to break through the immunity offered through vaccines and as well as through natural immunity offered through previous infections.

So this ability of the Omicron variant to breakthrough vaccines and natural immunity makes it a significant threat for countries around the world. But fortunately, current evidence from these countries shows that the symptoms and the severity of the disease associated with the Omicron variant appear to be less severe. In many cases, the patients are asymptomatic, and even if they have some symptoms, it happens to be very mild, and it has also been noticed that the severity of the disease has been lower as compared to the Delta variant. But however, this doesn’t mean that we can take the Omicron variant for granted because its high transmission rate accompanied with its ability to breakthrough vaccines and natural immunity, can quickly lead to an exponential surge in cases that could easily overwhelm the health care system of any country. Also, the current evidence available from other countries is very limited, and one cannot confidently conclude that this variant is going to be less severe than the previous variants. Because currently, most of the cases being reported in other countries are concentrated in the younger population and the true impact of the Omicron variant on the older population is yet to be comprehensively studied.

So considering these threats posed with the Omicron variant, India is taking no chances and several state governments based on the directions received by the Centre, have already started bringing back restrictions in order to minimize movement and assembly of people. Along with that, strict entry restrictions have also been brought back at airports to provide for effective screening and quarantine of incoming passengers.

Then on Dec 25th, in a televised address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressed the nation and has announced the launch of the vaccination programme for teenagers who are in the age group of 15 to 18 years, along with the launch of a booster dose or a precaution dose for eligible frontline and health care workers, and as well as for senior citizens who are above 60 years and those who have co-morbidities. The vaccination program for those between 15 to 18 years will be rolled out from the 3rd of January, and the booster shot for frontline workers and senior citizens shall be rolled out from the 10th of January. So the expansion of the coverage of the vaccination program and the introduction of a booster dose for the vulnerable has been designed to boost India’s preparedness against the next possible wave, which could be triggered by the highly infectious Omicron variant.

Along with this, the Centre and the states are working together to prep the health care system, and the prime minister has pointed out that more than 18 lakh hospital beds are available, out of which at least 5 lakh beds have oxygen support, along with 90,000 ICUs for children alone. The prime minister has stated that India has drawn lessons from the devastating second wave and to deal with oxygen shortage, more than 30000 oxygen plants have been set up across the country. Along with this, India’s vaccination coverage has been quite impressive, and nearly 90% of the eligible population has already been administered with one dose and nearly 61% of the eligible population have been administered with both doses. Further expanding this vaccination coverage is crucial in our fight against the pandemic, because scientific evidence has clearly shown that currently available vaccines are quite effective, especially in preventing severe disease, even in the case of newer variants such as the Omicron.

The prime minister has stated that all the decisions being made by the government are based on scientific and technical evidence, which has been thoroughly reviewed and deliberated by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID 19 and the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

So based on sound technical advice and scientific evidence, the government has framed these policies and put these measures in place to help the country deal with the emerging threats being posed by the Omicron variant. But however, I have one concern regarding the opening up of vaccines for teenagers in the age group of 15 to 18 years. That is if vaccination is opened up for those below 18 years, then a large number of vaccines are going to be diverted away from adults who are yet to receive their first and second dose. I think this is a crucial point because current evidence shows that COVID 19, even though it affects children and even though children show symptoms and carry the virus and spread it to others, they themselves are not severely affected by the disease. Whereas on the other hand, unvaccinated adults, especially amongst the older population, are more vulnerable, and hence few public health experts argue that it should be a top priority to achieve 100% vaccination coverage amongst adults before opening up vaccination for children. But the government is of the opinion that since India has already covered 90% of the eligible population with one dose and 61% of the population with two doses, the time is right to bring even children under the vaccination coverage in order to help contain the further spread of the pandemic.

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Hi, I am Vishnu, and I have been a blogger for more than 2 years now; and I will provide some knowledgeable current international news to my readers.

Riverdale, GA

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