dr NK Arora, head of the Covid-19 working group at the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), told TOI on Sunday that with newer sublines of Omicron, infections can occur after the first two doses or even after the precautionary shot. However, he said patients who experienced these breakthroughs in states where the subvariants were reported had normal “cold and cough symptoms” and did not require hospitalization.
In Maharashtra on Saturday, seven patients from the city of Pune were found with the Omicron subvariants – four had BA.4 while the rest had BA.5. All but one nine-year-old on the list were vaccinated. One person had also received the booster shot.
“The newer sublineages of Omicron have been discovered in three states and we will likely see more such cases. But these breakthrough infections caused by Omicron sublines are unlikely to strain existing healthcare infrastructure due to India’s intensified immunization program,” said Dr. Arora .
He added that studies suggest vaccines also reduce the risk of a long Covid by 30-40%.
He said: “While 88% of our adult population is fully vaccinated, we urge the remainder to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The risk from new variants and sub-lines remains and vaccines will keep the infection mild and take the pressure off healthcare systems and ensure economic activity continues unhindered.”
dr Arora, also co-chair of INSACOG, said the network has asked all states to step up contact tracing and focus on the formation of Covid clusters in one area.
Other experts also called for increased vigilance. ‘The subvariants of Omicron (BA.4 and BA.5) will not cause an increase. However, we have to be vigilant,’ said Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan, Co-Chair, Indian Medical Association National Task Force.
Maharashtra’s head of genome sequencing, Dr. Rajiv Karyakarte said they are keeping a close eye on the genome sequencing scene. It is this vigilance of the Pune INSACOG team in collaboration with BJ Medical College and IISER Pune that helped discover BA. 4 and BA. 5 in samples from the city, he said.
“The samples that tested positive after sequencing were breakthrough cases because all but the patient under the age of 10 were vaccinated. None were hospitalized. We need to focus on collecting samples systematically. Those who test positive via antigen kits will need to do an RT-PCR test so their samples can be sent for sequencing,” said Dr. Karyakarte.