Why vaccine remains your best bet amid fresh Covid surge
According to experts, like all other Omicron variants, XBB.1.16, too, has the ability to escape old immunity gained from previous infections, i.e., Alpha, Delta and Omicron, and invade a human body. However, despite the new sub-variant being considered contagious, the cases may not have high severity, they say.
Dr Giridhar R Babu, epidemiologist and head of life course epidemiology at Public Health Foundation of India, noted that unless there is a major surge in hospitalisations or deaths, mere rise in infections does not indicate a wave or spike.
“Although XBB.1.16 may be more contagious than other Omicron variants, there is no evidence of higher disease severity, increased hospitalisation or elevated mortality rates. That means the earlier doses are still protecting,” said Dr Babu.
Dr Babu stated that earlier infections and vaccinations have offered a relatively high level of protection. “As Covid has become endemic, proactive actions based on continued surveillance can guide the next course of action,” he added.
Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, public health expert and epidemiologist, said that compared to other strains, the new one has a growth advantage and can start replacing other variants.
“So, we might see the daily cases going up, but there will not be a wave as seen in 2020 or 2021. Also, because of more cases of flu recently, testing has gone up for Covid,” added Dr Lahariya.
Last year, after an Omicron wave in January, Covid cases began to decline. However, the month of August again saw some cases in the city, mainly owing to the existence of multiple sub-lineages of Omicron variant. From September onwards, there were hardly any cases, and daily infections were reduced to single digits.
XBB.1.16 is a new strain of the virus, developed from the combination of sub-lineage BA.2.10.1 and BA 2.75. Till now, it has been reported in 14-15 countries.
“So far, the infection reported in India has been milder and not severe. Hospitalisations have not gone up. However, those with comorbidities remain in the high-risk group,” said Dr Lalit Kant, former scientist, ICMR.
Meanwhile, the participation of eligible beneficiaries for the booster dose had been abysmally low in Delhi. So far, out of 15,661,040 people who had taken the second dose till September last year, only 33,91,822, or just 21%, have taken the third shot.
Dr Kant said vaccines have shown to work and prevent an individual from severity.
“The problem is that there is no data or study available on the immunity gained from vaccination or infection. If needed, vaccines should be tweaked a bit and a fourth dose can be considered for those who are in the severe or comorbid category. Also, genome sequencing should be expedited and the government needs to keep a check on mutants,” he added.
Dr Lahariya, however, said that even the precautionary dose is to be taken by only those who are in the high-risk category. “The World Health Organisation downgraded Omicron as a previous variant of concern. Unless there is a totally new variant, there is no reason for concern,” he added.
The post is published through a syndicated feed and attributed to Times Of India