Half of studied Omicron cases in India fully vaccinated: ICMR

So far, Omicron variant has been confirmed in 17 States

With India reporting nearly 358 cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, an analysis of 183 of them by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) found that nearly half were fully vaccinated. A little over a quarter had no international travel history but had likely come in contact with those who had got infected. None of those evaluated had severe disease symptoms, with close to 73% of them marked as ‘asymptomatic.’ Of them, 60%were men.

These numbers were disclosed at a press briefing by the Union Health Ministry on Friday.

So far, the Omicron variant has been confirmed in 17 States, with Maharashtra reporting 88 cases, followed by Delhi (67), Telangana (38) and Tamil Nadu (34). A third of those confirmed with the variant have been discharged.

“What we’d like to emphasise is that the dominant one in India continues to be the Delta variant. Being infected with Omicron doesn’t necessarily mean severe disease and the treatment of those symptomatic continues to be the same as before,” said Dr. Balram Bhargava, Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Letter to States

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan stated that India had been continuously monitoring the evolution of the Omicron variant. This Tuesday he wrote a letter to the top authorities of all States, advising them to impose restrictions such as night curfew and declare containment zones if districts either had a 10% positivity rate or occupancy in oxygen-supported or intensive care units (ICUs) rise to 40%.

Mr. Bhushan noted that based on the experience with the first and second waves, there were 18 lakh isolation beds, 4.9 lakh beds with oxygen support, 1.39 lakh ICU beds, 24,000 Paediatric ICUs and 64,796 Paediatric Non-ICU beds readied.

In South Africa and other countries, it appeared that there wasn’t a significant need for medical oxygen but India was nevertheless prepared and currently would be able to supply 18,836 tons of oxygen a day. During the peak of the second wave, India needed 10,000 tons, which a was a 10-fold rise from the maximum demand in the first wave, he observed.

He pointed out that 89% of Indian adults had got at least one dose and 60% were fully vaccinated. Nineteen States had administered at least one dose to over 90% of their population, but there were 11 States that were “below the national average” on vaccination.

Indian vaccinologists were still weighing the need to allow boosters and vaccination for children because they were perusing available data on the efficacy of various vaccines and how persistent antibody levels were. The ICMR was still in the process of culturing the Omicron strain and “it was harder to do so” than the previous variants, said Dr. Bhargava. But soon results on how it impacted the efficacy of Covaxin and Covishield would be available.

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