- India is clearly in the third wave of COVID-19: Dr NK Arora
- Over 75% of all Covid cases in metro cities are Omicron: Dr Arora
- Shelf life of vaccines is evaluated through various studies: Dr Arora
New Delhi: “India is clearly in the third wave of COVID-19,” Dr NK Arora, Head of the Covid Task Force and Chairman of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) as the country records galloping increase in the number of cases over the past 10 days. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), 23 states across the country have reported cases of Omicron the highly transmissible coronavirus variant that was first detected in South Africa in November. While talking to NDTV, Dr Arora highlighted that in big cities, Omicron is becoming a dominant strain, with large cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata having a combined 75 per cent share of infections driven by this new variant. He said,
If we look at the samples for which genome sequencing has been done, we find that we in the first week of December, we got the first case of Omicron, during the next week we saw that, nationally, around 12 per cent of total sequenced samples were of Omicron. Last week it increased to 28 per cent of all cases sequenced in the country. So, it is rapidly increasing as a proportion of all the Covid infections in the country. Now, having said that, I must also say something more important and that is that around the major cities, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and particularly Delhi, it is over 75 per cent of all the samples that have been isolated for genome sequencing.
According to Dr Arora, the genome of around 3,500 samples are being done all over the country and almost half of those samples are from larger cities.
While talking about the vaccination of teenagers in the age groups 15-16 by using those doses of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin that were not recently made and had their shelf-life extended, Dr Arora said,
It is absolutely safe for children to be vaccinated with Covaxin doses which have a life extension. Initially, when the vaccines were being produced, the overall shelf life was available only for the period for which the study was being done. Now, with the experience, the shelf life has been evaluated through various animal studies and it has been found that the vaccine is effective upto 12 months. So, it is not life-extended. The same has been done for mRNA vaccines in the USA also. Whenever a shelf life is decided, it is done in a very vigorous manner by the regulators and all the base line tests are done. It is based on science that shelf life is now extended to 12 months. In terms of efficacy also, there is no difference at all in the doses manufactured 10 months ago and those manufactured more recently.
Dr Arora further highlighted that in the wake of Omicron surge, studies are going on to find out which vaccine or a combination of vaccine will work most effectively against this variant. He said,
We now have a new kind of challenge. There is a variant, so contagious that it is breaking through the immune responses to the natural infection and the vaccines. So, all permutations and combinations have to be considered to know how to address this challenge. We cannot continue with the traditional way anymore. We have been seeing across the world that people who have taken the booster dose are also getting the infected by Omicron variant. So, this is a very rapidly changing scientific and public health scenario.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.