Covishield, Covaxin can protect against Omicron, claim experts, Health News, ET HealthWorld

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Covishield, Covaxin can protect against Omicron, claim expertsPUNE: Covishield and Covaxin jabs can prevent hospitalisation or death that may result from the new Botswana variant Omicron (B.1.1.529), the Covid-19 virus’s most mutated version as yet, virologists and infectious diseases experts have said.

Senior scientist Raman Gangakhedkar, former head of the epidemiology and communicable diseases division of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said, “Theoretically, it is possible that the new variant of concern (Omicron) may challenge vaccines’ efficacy. But, we know that our vaccines prevent hospitalisation and death. People must take two doses of the vaccine and adhere to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour, especially that of wearing a mask, to ward off infection from such variants.”

Gangakhedkar is one of the 26 members of WHO team appointed to examine the origins of pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2 that cause pandemics.

“There is not enough data yet to understand Omicron’s ability to evade vaccine or a natural infection-induced immune response. Hence, we should continue to enhance coverage in vaccine roll-out so that hospitalisation does not increase. Unvaccinated people must take two doses of the vaccine and those who have taken one dose must take the second dose at the earliest,” Gangakhedkar said. “More studies are needed to delineate whether previous exposure to the Delta strain or currently available vaccines will shield us against severe illness due to Omicron,” infectious diseases expert Sanjay Pujari, a member of the National Covid Task Force, told TOI.

Prasad Kulkarni, Serum Institute of India’s vaccine expert, said that given the experience of other variants, including the highly contagious Delta, it is most likely that the vaccines, as well as the past infections, will give protection from Omicron. “So, we may not have to worry too much,” he said.

“I don’t see any need for concern over Omicron. Prior infection and vaccination would definitely help against this variant in causing severe cases,” said Arvind Kushwaha I Community and preventive medicine expert AIIMS, Nagpur