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Omicron Highly contagious – Qualms over the new coronavirus variant triggered an international travel ban

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There are differences of opinions on the new variant; some believe that there is no threat to India and some doctors pose it as a danger. In the midst of rising concern over the B.1.1529 variant of coronavirus, categorized as a ‘variant of concern’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

India’s top microbiologist and virologist, Professor Dr Gagandeep Kang said, “The new variant is infectious and could break away from immunity. The B.1.1529 variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in Africa’s Botswana.”

“This is a strain that has mutations, unlike the constellations that have been seen previously. So, there are chances that it will spread more easily, and some chances that it may be able to evade the immune response,” Dr Kang further said.

The ‘Omicron’ variant, which scientists say has a high number of mutations, was first detected in South Africa last week. A World Health Organisation (WHO) panel has classified it as a highly transmissible variant of concern, the same category that includes the Delta variant.

Prasad Neelaya, a medical representative said, “The media is unnecessarily trying to scare people. Such news is a boon for corporate hospitals. The corporate hospital mafia will be happy. Doctors are ready for sacrifice and CEOs are ready for profit. Now some vaccines will be introduced in foreign courtiers whom they will sell or maybe in India god knows when it is going to stop.”

Dr Abhilash Issac said, “First of all people should get vaccinated without any delay. Even today, there are nearly 16-17 crore people in India who haven’t got a single dose of the vaccine. This is dangerous.”

Former dean of AIIMS Dr N K Mehra, said, that Covid vaccines might not ensure 100% protection against infection, but there were credible data to show it did protect against the infection turning severe. Mehra said the elderly and immune-compromised persons, such as cancer patients and organ transplant recipients, should be prioritised for vaccination. “Some of these people have received two doses of the vaccine. They may require an additional dose because studies suggest they have a suboptimal response to the vaccines,” he said.

Countries like the US, UK and Israel have already allowed booster doses to high-risk groups.

The immune-compromised act as hosts for mutations of the coronavirus because of prolonged infection, apart from providing additional protection to the immune-compromised patients, a third dose could help prevent mutations, announced health experts. Omicron, according to initial reports, was first detected in a patient suffering from HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, epidemiologist and public health systems expert said, “It is important for us to know how our indigenous or locally administered vaccines will protect against this variant because this variant has mainly shown breakthrough infections in Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer vaccines. Let us hope our vaccines protect us better. The Omicron variant is a new one and it wasn’t much known about its ability to escape immunity generated by vaccination or natural infection.”

Many doctors warned that the pandemic isn’t over yet and people need to follow the norms of social distance, wearing masks and getting vaccinated.

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