BENGALURU: In the next seven to 10 days, the number of people reporting the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is expected to increase as preliminary evidence suggests that it is more transmissible than other variants, said Dr. Subramanian Swaminathan, Senior Consultant, Infectious Diseases, Gleneagles Global Health City, speaking at a webinar titled "Dealing with the unpredictable:The COVID Crossroads".
"The speed at which it is spreading is mind boggling. It can reinfect 40 percent of people, as compared to Delta which is at 8 percent. There is an increased risk of infection but severity remains unclear. In other countries, it has caused severe illness in the unvaccinated and undervaccinated," Dr. Swaminathan opined, adding that the pace of doubling is fast.
He said the third wave has started everywhere, including in India and that the country will need to increase genomic sequencing for the next two weeks.
Dr. Randeep Guleria, director of AIIMS, New Delhi agreed with him saying that India is seeing the beginning of the third wave.
"If cases of Omicron are high and hospitalization rate is said to be low, in absolute numbers the number of hospitalized people will still be high. This will lead to panic among people to block beds and get admitted even for mild disease. This will be a challenge we will see next," Dr. Guleria stated.
With respect to booster doses, the panel said that it would be required for priority groups. Dr. Swaminathan said data from Israel shows that re-vaccination is good as vaccines do wane over time and booster doses will prove to be beneficial. Natural immunity does add teeth to vaccine immunity, he added.
However, Dr. Guleria said that we still need more data on booster doses as there are people who have taken a third dose and still contracted Omicron.
"Priority groups such as healthcare workers can get the booster and data says mixing and matching of vaccines is better. We need to test vaccine efficacy against Omicron, before rolling out boosters," Dr. Guleria shared, adding that vaccines can be tweaked according to emerging variants.
Dr. Pradeep Rangappa, Intensive Care Physician, Manipal Hospitals said that curtailing viral replication to prevent the inflammatory stage and need for ICU will be another challenge.