A large chunk of Omicron cases in India as the country faces a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have been reported from big cities, the head of the country’s vaccine task force told NDTV today, adding the third wave of the pandemic is very much here.
Large cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata have a combined 75 per cent share of infections of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant Omicron that was first detected in South Africa in November, said Dr NK Arora, who has been very closely involved with the rollout of vaccines from the very onset.
“Look at whatever the variants have been genome sequenced… We got our first virus right in the first week of December. So, last week, nationally overall, 12 per cent of the variants identified were Omicron and the week gone by in the previous week, it has increased to 28 per cent. 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 metro cities, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and particularly Delhi, it is over 75 per cent of all the isolates now,” said Dr Arora, who is Chairman of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, or NTAGI.
India has so far reported 1,700 Omicron cases, with Maharashtra reporting the most number of infections at 510. The country also saw a 22 per cent jump in new COVID-19 cases, government data this morning showed.
Dr Arora said the third wave of the pandemic is very much here.
“India is clearly in the third wave of COVID-19. And the whole wave seems to be driven by a new variant and today it is Omicron,” Dr NK Arora told NDTV, adding this is supported by evidence from the last four-five days that saw “galloping increase in the number of cases”.
On another significant point, Dr Arora dismissed concerns that vaccines being given to 15-18 age group, who started getting the anti-Covid jabs today, could be unsafe as the doses had their shelf-life extended.
“It is absolutely safe. See, initially when the vaccines were being produced, the overall shelf-life issues were available only for that period when the studies were being done. Now, today, with the experience and the time, since when the vaccine was produced, the shelf-life has been evaluated through various animal studies. And it clearly shows that the vaccine is effective and active potency is maintained up to 12 months,” Dr Arora said.
Pharma firm Bharat Biotech was allowed to extend the shelf-life of Covaxin by India’s drugs regulator on December 20.