Home Interviews Vaccination will prevent severities of Omicron: Dr Padma, Chief of Neurology Dept, AIIMS

Vaccination will prevent severities of Omicron: Dr Padma, Chief of Neurology Dept, AIIMS

by Vaishali Sharma

The burning issue right now omicron variant how much do we need to worry we have two cases which have been found in India the first case one of the cases a Doctor who has had no foreign contacts and no history of foreign travel. Does it mean that omicron is already in India that perhaps it’s possible it could have already spread or is it too early to press the panic button?

Dr. Padma: I think it is now three cases I just heard that the third case has been turn omicron positive in Gujarat from again and international travel so these cases are bound to come up now as regards the positivities in a person who did not have a travel history that’s a concern that you have raised now we also know that this been also from The Who that this variant is about three times more infectious so it certainly seems to have a precedence in terms of infectivity over and about the delta variant so obviously when there is a contact with an infectious person around so the infection rate would spread now as regards the fear versus being alert versus pressing the panic button when you press the panic button it leads to some kneejerk reactions and also to probably some of the actions which are undesirable what at this time we need is to be fearful because when you’re fearful you are on guard you’re alert and therefore you would take preventative measures so said that whatever information has come up it does see that it is definitely more transmissible and more infections and the who has also said that the reinfection rate means that those who had COVID infection in the past or who are vaccinated also are getting these infections with the omicron and there is also information from whatever the cases that have been seen so far it has been mild and the spectrum seems to be a little different in the sense that they did not record a loss of smell and loss of taste or more milder spectrum without the involvement grossly of lungs or oxygen lack or hospitalizations and certainly no deaths that’s encouraging said that though we know that the infections have not really gone on to involve very elderly immune compromised those individuals even a minor infection can lead to a major problem so giving it a blank statement that this would always remain mild we don’t know so we yet to see that’s number one to fear number two is that whenever the infections spread is because of mutations and when you have more mutations we do not know how the virus again behaves mutates and may lead to other variants so that’s another concern so therefore we have to take cautions that this infection should not spread.


Since you mentioned of this third case as well now this third case is a man who traveled to other country the second case of course is someone who’s had a travel history from South Africa I specifically talk about the doctor would the interpretation we would like to understand ma’am as Indians because there is of course a growing fear as far as this variant is concerned is it possible that it perhaps already is in India and that this mutation is not just important anymore it could have already spread?

Dr. Padma: That’s a concern that some of the biologist have raised we do have some information which has come from some biologists who say that this probably is already existent an you know all these kind of viral flu like features that are sometimes seen and in this weather and this season you have that very commonly seen that when supposing these people are tested then maybe you know this thing is there but that’s the kind of what you say is their thought on this that has come from certain biologists but as the we go by what the World Health Organization saying and what our ministry saying and so we’re going strictly by science so that part is not yet proven said that though you know that this is some amount of also trepidation that yes when you are exposed to someone who’s also traveled say in a congregation in a conference in meeting grounds the people coming from all parts and you know you do not know each and every person’s travel history in the last 15 days or a month and since the regulations and also the kind of you know what you call as limitations in our activities has sort of reason over the last couple of months so there is more travel there is more movement so it’s possible that the exposure may also have happened to another person who has had a travel history and you know that a large number of people also remained asymptomatic when they tested out some contacts which has come out in South Africa and other countries lot of contacts did not have many symptoms which is true for most of the viral infections so that may also be possibility of course there are people who also negating it saying that that’s not possible since the exposure was just couple of hours so I think it is too premature to make an assumption and be there but it really does not really lead to useful conclusions here at this point of term because as a very responsible citizens we should actually now stick to the precautions of being covid appropriate in our behavior wear the mask and get vaccinated I think these two arsenals are there with us instead of going into you neety gritty and small things about how somebody’s got infected what’s going to happen I think it’s in other hands to prevent something major happening.


As many others have also said that mask is like a vaccine in your pocket but you know speaking specifically of a vaccination what do we know about the variant and how it behaves with vaccination does it have the capability to override the immunity provided by vaccination and also I’d like to ask you this into correlation to the immunosuppressing elderly since of course as the head of the new row department of AIIMS you very closely work with that.

Dr. Padma: So the concern that cohort of group of people who are elderly and who immune compromise for whatever reason they’re on the suppressants they are on certain disorders their cancer patients or chemotherapy they’re taking steroid they have uncontrolled diabetics what have you or transplant patients whoever they are now this cohort remains out of concern because mild infections become major mild infections because severe and lead to severe consequences in this cohort so they’re always a concern now coming to vaccines I don’t think there is any  kind of a doubt that vaccination will prevent us  severity of an infection that stays whether it prevents being infected of course is probably not 100% certainly it may help but it is not going to 100% prevent from getting an infection like it is you know someone in one of the channels has given a very beautiful quote it is like wearing a helmet you know it wearing a helmet is not going to prevent you from all the exigencies and variations that may be happening when you’re driving but it will prevent a major head injury so the infection occurrence may happen but it’s going to really prevent the severity said that now it is those vaccines which have been developed against the spike protein and since we know that in the spike protein and omicron there are huge number of mutations therefore the manufacturers of mRNA vaccines are tweaking the vaccine so that it is now go into to anyhow but we have vaccines which are made under difference the preamble is different here so whether this is escape mechanism to these vaccines we don’t know yet said that there is also information which came from again World Health Organization which said that there is an immune escape property of omicron then maybe there are questions that the reason there’s a variant of concern therefore I would believe that getting vaccinated would be of absolute of paramount importance it is definitely going to help you in severity that’s what whether our vaccines are going to help in preventing omicron we don’t know the we still need to have that progress to understand and get that literature and information and there are people working on then the second thing is now this cohort whether it is omicron whether it is delta whether it is any infection this cohort of elderly an immune compromised are a precious cohort who definitely need more protection so they need to be definitely well guarded.


Since you speak of the elderly those who have other comorbidities let’s talk about you know the general population right now in fact not just right now from the past few months we’ve seen a huge debate around booster shots would you say that considering that we have a new variant which has so many about 50 mutations so that’s the least that we know of as of now given what’s happening in the world around us given that we are detecting cases in India as well do you think that that has expedited the need to give booster shots to a certain population at least at the earliest?

Dr. Padma: I believe this is being definitely conclusively being drawn out and I’ve also seen on the news that the ministry is also strongly contemplating that and the top sports of the science bodies are coming to conclusion very soon honoring this and there are of course parts of the world who are already going ahead and doing that yes I think a booster dose would be required for the individuals who would be act risk of developing a severe infection especially since six months hence there is some information in certain vaccine categories that the immunity wanes that again will definitely need to be proven across our part of the world we probably don’t have a huge robust data coming on that but then since this has come in we need to expedite our you know the kind of conclusive wait forward in terms of protecting these individuals so I think yes there is a role.


What about children ma’am you know ahead of the COVID task forces told us also in an interview that they are looking at providing vaccination to children also by the middle of next year but the question right now is that we have a new study which has come out South African experts medical experts have also verify that a large number of children under 5 have needed hospitalization cause of this new variant are children at a bigger risk this time should we look at vaccinating them as well at the earliest?

Dr. Padma: Yes so that is of concern it is true that the South African Medical Association has come out with this that they do have you know a rise in children under the age of five years with this variant infection although again they did not see that the infectious severity as such has been very extensive in that but certainly it’s of concern when you have a large group of very young baby is coming in with this infection it is of concern because it does not happen in at least the first wave on the second wave and certainly not in our part of the world so it is concerning and hence I think there will be a way forward even for these children but then I did hear that even the vaccinations for children are going to come on board probably even much earlier than what was earlier thought of but again as we speak since this kind of the rapidity with which information is also coming in from different parts of the world an our understanding and getting more robust evidence on which we can make decisions is also getting much higher and much more what I would say solid I think we should not have again as I said when you press the panic button there would be kneejerk reactions and that is I think that is what is being avoided by all responsible task forces and science and even the implementation agencies so I’m sure we will have a way forward very soon.


Right and the last question to you since you spoke of a way forward you said we shouldn’t press the panic button as you sign or what would be the word of advice you’d like to give people considering it’s the beginning of December and end of December is really when the peak tourist festive season also begins any word of advice you’d like to give people don’t panic but perhaps masking vaccination paramount?

Dr. Padma: You said it absolutely you hit the nail on the head so certainly non prioritized activities please don’t take up if you can avoid non prioritized activity I mean a gathering where it is purely of pleasure getaways gathering where it is not really required you can make do with a less number of people or equally you know postpone it for few months do that absolute essential travel is a must the essentiality depends upon your own survival your profession but unnecessary travel don’t do it we can definitely virtually meet and get going, and please mask up never have a mask down or unmask and go about as so the whole thing is you know don’t say all is well and go around saying that there’s no mask needed mask is absolutely essential your COVID appropriate behavior is a first arsenal get both shots of vaccines and whenever there is a booster dose which is which is you know given which is given two their cohort where it is ordained for please come forward and take it so get vaccinated get COVID appropriate behavior be responsible citizens you can do it.


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