There is no need to be scared about the COVID-19 situation in China and elsewhere due to the Omicron variant-induced mass infections because most of the vulnerable populations here have taken the booster or precaution dose. There is also hybrid immunity among the people due to prior infection and vaccination, observed noted scientist and former CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) director Rakesh Mishra.
“We are in a strong position but, we should be alert to check on the cases and genome surveillance to understand the variant status and what is happening. I am glad that the government has taken note of the developments in China and has already issued a caution notice to the State governments to remain vigilant. Importantly, those who skipped vaccination or booster dose should take it immediately,” he said, in an exclusive interaction, on Wednesday.
Dr. Mishra, also the director of Bengaluru-based Tata Institute of Genetics and Society (TIGS), and has his own lab in the CCMB here, where he guides his research students, advises people to mask up in new environments, indoor spaces and avoid crowds. “I am not tired of repeating this because this is the best step of defence against falling sick with flu-like symptoms,” he reiterated.
The surveillance methods to detect any new variants should be stepped up like frequent testing of the sewage samples which will give an advance notice to any emerging dangers across the country. “It should be part of the integrated municipal set up ideally. There are less cases but we should sequence them though the chances of any variant more infectious than the Omicron or its offspring is less likely to surface,” said the top scientist.
It is necessary because Omicron has now a “vast playground” of Chinese population to circulate and the chance of a more potent variant which can be “clinically troublesome” should be watched for. “Omicron is the most infectious variant so far and has not run through China as it followed a ‘zero COVID’ policy strictly. They have delayed and missed the opportunity to vaccinate their vulnerable populations and their vaccines’ efficacy has been under a cloud – all these factors led to the current dire situation,” said Dr. Mishra.
An annual booster or a variant specific vaccine is not necessary in the present situation, but strengthening surveillance of the diseases outbreak should be taken up as it could give indications of an upcoming ‘infection storm’ for the governments to prepare and take necessary action, he added.