NEW DELHI: The Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Monday urged the government to announce "additional" doses of Covid vaccine for healthcare, frontline workers and immunocompromised individuals amid concerns over the Omicron variant of coronavirus, 21 cases of which been detected in India so far.
It also demanded that the government expedite the proposal of vaccinating individuals aged 12 to 18 years.
At a press conference, the doctors' body said that cases of the latest variant of coronavirus were reported from a number of major states of India and the tally, which is in the double digits, is bound to increase.
With the scientific evidence available and the experience noted in countries of origin, it is evident that the Omicron variant will have high penetrability and will affect more people, the IMA claimed.
"At a time when India is limbing back to normalcy, this is a great setback. If we do not take adequate measures, we may have a massive third wave," it said.
Noting that India has crossed 1.26 billion vaccinations, with over 50 per cent of the adult population vaccinated at least with one dose, the IMA said vaccination has proved that it will prevent severe forms of infection.
"So, if we can altruistically be focused on vaccination, India can definitely overcome the impact of Omicron. IMA earnestly appeals to everyone concerned to take the vaccination as priority agenda and focus attention to reach all the unreached and also ensuring the second dose is given to all the needy."
"At this juncture, IMA also appeals to the government to officially announce additional dose (of vaccine) be given to healthcare, frontline workers and immunocompromised individuals to augment the immunity," the doctors' body said.
Omicron has proved to be less potent in causing severe infections but definitely five to 10 times more contagious than the Delta variant.
Hence the government and all stakeholders should take proper steps to control the contagion by enhancing immunisation, the IMA stressed in a press release.
It appealed to everyone to avoid and put on hold massive social gatherings and ensure adherence to covid-appropriate behaviour, including wearing of masks and washing of hands.
"IMA does not support the imposition of a travel ban. However, we appeal to all to avoid unnecessary travel, especially pleasure tourism and social gatherings. All our public transport system should strictly adhere to code of covid protocol."
Noting that in African countries where the Omicron variant has spread widely, there is a sudden increase in the number of children getting infected and admitted to ICUs, the IMA said appealed to all schools and colleges to strictly adhere to Covid protocols and ensure all adults there be vaccinated.
"IMA also demands the government should expedite the proposal for vaccination of children of 12 to 18 years at the earliest," it said.
Expressing concern about the manpower shortage in the healthcare sector, the IMA said, "It is disastrous to note the postponement of NEET-PG admission in medical colleges."
"This will result in a shortage of almost two batches of postgraduates, one appearing for the exam and one waiting for admission. This will result in nearly one lakh young resident doctors not being available to tackle the crisis."
"IMA demands the Government of India get proactively involved in this issue and ensure that the PG admission is done on a war footing. It will be too late if we postpone the PG admission to tackle the Covid crisis," the doctors' body said.