Renowned US Expert Dr Faheem Younus, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, explained that risk of Covid death decreases by 48 times after a booster shot.
Here are some excerpts from the exclusive interview:
Many say boosters should be given to those above 60 or those who are immunocompromised, but not to the general population. Where do you stand on this?
Dr Faheem Younus: I believe it is not about the expert opinion, but about what the data says. The current evidence says that if you have received two shots, risk of death due to Covid decreases by 9 times. If you have received three shots, the risk is 48 times lower. The question is if you have adequate supply, but considering equal supply, there is simply no debate.
Where does Science stand on Mixing and Matching of vaccines?
Dr Faheem Younus: There has not been much studies on mixing and matching of vaccines but for now it is considered to be safe. A study from Spain showed that people who received AstraZeneca first and an mRNA vaccine later showed better immune responses. People who received two different forms of mRNA vaccines show good results. Same can be extrapolated for other vaccines as well. It is true that mixing and matching is largely considered safe at this stage.
Why are we seeing large number of hospitalizations in the US?
Dr Faheem Younus: I want to make sure that the parents should not be extremely worried about it. This is no reason for panic because what we are seeing in the US is multifactorial. Only 3 to 4 per cent of the children are vaccinated in the US, which means they will catch more infection as compared to adults. Schools remained open which is why more transmissions occurred.
Previously, we had 2.5 children hospitalized per 100,000 during Delta, which increased to 4 per 100,000 during Omicron. Children about 2 years old still have their upper respiratory tract under development and since Omicron affects the upper respiratory tract more, they may have more chances of landing up in hospital, but the overall bad outcomes are exceedingly rare in children as compared to 70-80 year old people.
What are the benefits of vaccinating children in?
Dr Faheem Younus: When it comes to science, we should vaccinate the world ideally. In a large country with a large population and many factors to consider, I am pretty sure that these policies are based on priorities and what is available, etc. There is not much debate in science as there is with policies.
You have time and again reiterated that Omicron is not mild. What would you say to those who come up with the stance that Omicron is mild and there is no need to worry?
Dr Faheem Younus: Omicron is not mild, but milder than Delta. That is like saying this lion is not as ferocious. You wouldn’t want to go in the cage just because it is less ferocious. Omicron is still piling up deaths here in the US, we are seeing number of hospitalizations like we never saw with Delta. If it was a mild variant, we would not have been so stretched in our healthcare system, we have blood shortages, illnesses within the healthcare staff, transmissions in the hospital, elective surgeries are cancelled and people lining up who can’t find a test. None of this happens if something is mild. Therefore, I think we have to be very cautious. The variant can break through previous immune wall.
What are the ideal number of days for quarantine?
Dr Faheem Younus: Short answer to this is 10 days because when you deal with human immunity, everybody has something known as host factors. I may clear the virus faster and you may clear it slower and so on. Many studies suggest that many 90 to 95 per cent people do not shed live virus after 10 days. The 5 day strategy that CDC came up with was based on a practical reality because hospitals are short staffed and we need some people who are very essential back in the workforce.
Share your experience in the context of wearing mask.
Dr Faheem Younus: Some people still do not believe the existence of this virus and think that masks do not work. I would like to tell them that I have been around a thousand Covid patients since this pandemic started over the past two years and I did not get infected because I was wearing a mask. I went to a personal gathering for two days without mask and I got infected. This proves that masks work. My plea to everyone is wear good quality masks and if you cannot afford two masks, buy two N95 masks, put one in the paper bag and use the other one for the day and vice versa for the next day. Protect yourself until this wave recedes and hopefully we will be in a better place.