‘Omicron less severe than Delta’

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Hyderabad: While Omicron-driven Covid-19 infections are increasing exponentially across the country, including in Telangana, the rate of hospitalisations among positive cases is expected to be negligible when compared to the Delta-driven second wave, senior health officials said here on Wednesday.

A majority of Omicron cases, which are mild and asymptomatic, can recover under home isolation and it is the immunocompromised individuals if infected by the Omicron variant, who may require hospital care.

The noted SUTRA mathematical projection model of pandemics developed by researchers from IIT-Kanpur and Hyderabad in their projections have indicated that only 1 in 10 Omicron positive cases could require hospitalisation in India while during the second Delta wave, 1 in 5 reported cases had required hospitalisation in the country.

Based on the sero-survey carried out by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the SUTRA model has indicated that natural immunity acquired during the previous two-Covid waves among Indians is close to 83 per cent. In Hyderabad, a recent pilot study by Asian Institute Gastroenterology (AIG), Hospitals, has indicated that 87 per cent of the participants in the study, who didn’t get vaccinated and never tested positive, had Covid-19 related antibodies.

Countries with better natural immunity, which is the case in States like Telangana and other parts of the country, could fare better in overcoming the threat of Omicron, researchers have maintained. “South Africa data shows that natural immunity is significantly retained while vaccine immunity is almost completely lost. So countries with high vaccine immunity but low natural immunity will do worse than those with high natural immunity (SA and India for example),” Dr Manindra Agrawal of SUTRA model explained.

Distinguished faculty and SERB Chair, IIT-Hyderabad, Dr M Vidyasagar, who is also part of the SUTRA consortium, also believes that the severity of the Omicron and hospitalisations will not be huge when compared to the Delta wave.

“Hospitalisations during Omicron variant should be less when compared to the Delta variant in the second wave. It appears as if the natural immunity due to prior exposure to the Delta variant offers better protection than vaccination,” Dr Vidyasagar points out.

Even in countries like UK, recent studies have indicated that hospitalisations could be less due to Omicron variant. According to an analysis published by UK Health Security Agency, which collaborated with Cambridge University, and analysed 5, 28, 176 Omicron infections and 5, 73, 012 in Delta cases, the risk of hospitalisation is lower for Omicron cases with symptomatic and asymptomatic infection after 2 to 3 doses of vaccine.

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