Omicron May Be Less Severe Due To Vaccination, Prior Infections, Says Health Ministry

On Friday, the Union health ministry said the severity of Covid-19 from the Omicron variant in India could be low due to the “fast pace” of vaccination and high exposure to the Delta variant. The ministry said that the new variant of concern is likely to spread to more countries, including India, but the scale and magnitude of the rise in infections is still not clear.  

“Given the fast pace of vaccination in India and high exposure to Delta variant as evidenced by high seropositivity, the severity of the disease is anticipated to be low,” the ministry said in a statement. “However, scientific evidence is still evolving.”  

So far, India has reported two cases of Omicron. Two men — one aged 66 and another 46 — were detected with Omicron variant on Thursday. These are the first two cases in the WHO South-East Asia Region. 

The ministry said that Omicron had been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) based on the observed mutations, their predicted features of increased transmission and immune evasion, and preliminary evidence of detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology, such as increased reinfections.  

The ministry stressed the importance of getting vaccinated against Covid-19 with the available vaccines as they are expected to still offer protection against a severe disease. While the ministry said the definitive evidence for increased remission and immune evasion is awaited, a preliminary study by South African researchers suggests that the Omicron variant is associated with a substantial ability to evade immunity from prior infection. According to the study, the VoC is three times more likely to cause reinfections than the Beta or Delta variants.  

India reported 9,216 new Covid cases in the last 24 hours as the active caseload stood below 1 lakh. Meanwhile, the cumulative vaccination coverage has exceeded the 125 crore mark, with 73.67 lakh doses administered on Friday. 

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