Why most Indians may be protected from Omicron

News Network
November 30, 2021

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A “very large” number of Indians are likely to remain protected from Omicron or any other variant of Covid-19 and there is no need to panic, eminent virologist Dr Shahid Jameel has said.

Jameel, who is the former head of the advisory group to the Indian SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortia (INASACOG), said people must be cautious and keep wearing masks.

"While we should be cautious, there is no need to panic. India's second wave due to the Delta variant was huge, infecting more people than we imagined. This is reflected in the fourth National Sero-survey that showed 67 per cent of Indians to have Covid antibodies. That is about 930-940 million people at a time when the vaccination levels were very low, and so it came mainly from infection," he said in an interview.

"More recently, Delhi showed 97 per cent with antibodies, Mumbai around 85-90 per cent and so on. All this means that a very large fraction of Indians will be protected from severe disease caused by Omicron or any other variant," Jameel said.

A new variant of Covid-19, feared to have a high amount of spike mutations, has been detected in South Africa. On November 26, the WHO had designated B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern and named it Omicron.

Speaking on the effectiveness of vaccines against the new variant, Jameel said more data is awaited but vaccine effectiveness against the variant may dip by a few points. However, vaccines will not become useless, he said.

"We don't have this data available yet. It may take another one to two weeks for the first laboratory results to become available. My hunch is that vaccine effectiveness against this variant may dip a few points, but vaccines will not become useless. They will continue to protect from severe disease," he said.

On how India can prepare to tackle the new variant, he said people should not panic, and continue to wear mask while the government should increase the rate of vaccination.

"We are fortunate to have sufficient vaccines and the ability to vaccinate. Along this line, it may help to reduce the duration between two doses of Covishield from 16 weeks to 12 weeks. This will get more people vaccinated quickly, especially those in vulnerable age groups (elderly), those with comorbidities and those in high risk occupations (health care)," he said.

On what role a booster dose of vaccine can play against the new variant to tackle waning immunity against Covid-19, he said booster shots help, but it is more important to first get more people vaccinated with two doses.

"Further, about 90 per cent of doses in India are Covishield, and this has limited use as a booster. For that we will need either RNA, DNA or protein vaccines. For the moment, just make sure more and more people get the two doses," he said.

Responding to reports claiming that the variant mainly affects people below 25 years of age, he said there is no data available on the subject.

"So far, the few known patients are in this age group. I doubt it will pose a bigger threat to children who naturally have no or mild disease to this virus," Jameel said.

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News Network
January 10,2022

UAE has announced a travel ban on unvaccinated citizens from January 10.

The National Crisis & Emergency Management Authority and Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation said that fully vaccinated citizens will also need to get the Covid-19 booster dose.

Those who are unable to take the vaccine because of medical reasons are exempted from the decision.

The announcement is in line with the country’s vision in the recovery phase of the pandemic and enhancing national efforts in all sectors, due to the global epidemiological situation and the current high rate of infections, to preserve the health and safety of citizens.

The ministry also stressed the requirement to receive the booster dose for vaccinated citizens as per the national protocol on travel.

Travel is permitted for unvaccinated citizens of the following categories, citizens medically exempted from taking the vaccine, humanitarian cases, and individuals traveling from medical and treatment purposes.

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News Network
January 9,2022

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Google is celebrating the 191st birth anniversary of Indian educator and feminist icon Fatima Sheikh, who is widely considered to be India’s first Muslim woman teacher, by featuring a doodle for her. Alongside fellow pioneers and social reformers Jyotirao and Savitribai Phule, Sheikh co-founded the Indigenous Library in 1848, one of India’s first schools for girls.

Fatima was born on this day in 1831 in Pune. She lived with her brother Usman, and the siblings opened their home to the Phules after the couple was evicted for attempting to educate people in lower castes. The Indigenous Library opened under the Sheikhs’ roof.

Here, Savitribai Phule and Fatima Sheikh taught communities of marginalized Dalit and Muslim women and children who were denied education based on class, religion, or gender.

The Phules’ efforts to provide educational opportunities to those born into lower castes became known as the Satyashodhak Samaj (Truthseekers’ Society) movement. As a lifelong champion of this movement for equality, Sheikh went door-to-door to invite the downtrodden in her community to learn at the Indigenous Library and escape the rigidity of the caste system.

She met great resistance from the dominant classes who attempted to humiliate those involved in the Satyashodhak movement, but Sheikh and her allies persisted.

Although Sheikh’s story has been historically overlooked, the Indian government shone new light on her achievements in 2014 by featuring her profile in Urdu textbooks alongside other trailblazing Indian educators.

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News Network
January 11,2022

Bengaluru, Jan 11: Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, who tested positive for Covid-19, was shifted to a private hospital on Tuesday. The doctors have stated that the CM was showing mild symptoms and there was no problem as such.

CM Bommai was shifted to hospital on the suggestion of doctors and a few tests will be conducted on him. He turned positive for Covid on Monday and was kept in home isolation.

Bommai has called for a high-level virtual meeting of senior officers and technical committee members on Tuesday to analyse the Covid-19 situation in the state.

Bommai's son and daughter-in-law also tested positive for the virus on Tuesday. However, CM Bommai's wife and daughter have tested negative. Bharath Bommai, the son of CM took to social media said, "I have tested positive for Covid with very mild symptoms. I have isolated myself at home. I would like the people who have come in contact with me to kindly get themselves tested."

His family members were tested following the development. CM Bommai was working from his R T Nagar residence, Race Course Road Government Office and Home Office Krishna. All the staff of these offcies have been tested and their reports are awaited.

Health Minister K Sudhakar stated that he is voluntarily undergoing self-isolation for the next two days since he happened to be a primary contact of CM Bommai. "The Abbott ID Now' test done and it is negative. I will undergo RT-PCR test again after two days," he said.

"Although I am completely asymptomatic and doing absolutely fine, as a responsible citizen, I will undergo self-isolation for two days considering the health and safety of others. All my official programmes stand cancelled and I will continue to work through virtual platforms," he maintained.

"I will undergo RT-PCR test after two days and if the report comes negative I will resume work from Wednesday," Sudhakar said.

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