What To Expect From Third Wave And Covid-19 Pandemic
According to SUTRA Consortium, the peak of India’s third wave could occur around 23 January and the end of this wave is predicted to come around early February.
The Covid-19-tracking website, which was launched by the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IIT-Hyderabad), has various features, including the ability to anticipate the pandemic's future course. As India on 19 January reported 2,82,970 new Covid-19 cases, according to the SUTRA Consortium of which IIT Hyderabad is a member, the peak of India’s third wave could occur around 23 January and the end of this wave is predicted to come around early February.
As per the experts, the Omicron wave appears to be peaking around the period, although at far lower levels. The number of daily new cases is currently over 2.75 lakhs, and it has been quite stable for several days.
While it could be argued that the figures are artificially low as a result of new ICMR guidelines that advise against testing asymptomatic people who have been in contact with those who test positive.
Two data points, however, refute this notion. These are:
1) The number of daily tests has remained pretty constant at between 18 to 20 lakhs. Therefore the new ICMR guidelines aren't really being implemented. (Those were just suggestions in any case) and
2) If the number of cases was being artificially suppressed by restricting the pool of people being tested, then the Test Positivity Rate (TPR) would increase. Instead, in almost all states, the TPR is either flat (e.g. MH) or is falling (e.g., Delhi).
As per the experts, the hospital bed occupancy rate in cities like Mumbai and Delhi is approximately 25 to 30 per cent, which is quite comfortable. As a result, if a future rise occurs, there is ample capacity to accommodate it.
However, anecdotal evidence from doctors in charge of large hospitals suggests that admissions are on the decline. Apart from the Omicron wave, one explanation is that those who were admitted "as a precaution" (or, more likely, to reserve a bed for themselves should the need arise) no longer feel compelled to do so, said the researchers.
Although the infection has now expanded to Tier II and Tier III cities, the pattern remains the same. It is also believed that at current levels, daily case counts may not reach 3.5 lakhs per day, far below the second wave peak of 4 lakhs per day.
Despite the fact that demand for oxygen and ICU beds has been significantly lower than capacity, it's worth noting that 97 per cent of people in need of oxygen or ICU had gotten one or no immunisation doses.
This refutes the SUTRA Consortium's initial hypothesis that the Omicron variant totally surpasses vaccine-induced immunity while partially bypassing natural immunity (due to prior exposure). It should be noted that the situation in other nations, where alternative vaccines are used, has been quite different.
Experts are trying to design studies that could quantify this bypassing of immunity.
It may be possible to carry out long-term studies that would take several months and answer such questions. But in the short term, it appears to be difficult to disambiguate between the two kinds of immunity loss.
Unlike other countries, such as the United States, India has a low level of vaccine apprehension, as evidenced by the fact that over 90 per cent of adults have received their first dose. The substantial disparity between the numbers of patients who received one dosage and those who received two doses is due to the government's recommendation of a 12- to 16-week delay between the first and second Covishield.
It is thought that this huge gap was the government’s making a virtue out of necessity. Initially, an 8-week gap was proposed which kept getting increased as time went on. While some arguments were advanced to the effect that extending the vaccination gap results in better antibody production, it is possible that the real reason was a policy of the government that it would be better to get at least one dose into as many as possible, before worrying about the second dose.
That policy might have made sense back in May or June of last year, but makes no sense now. The gap should be cut to 8 to 12 weeks, and the software of the COWIN portal should be modified to accommodate this, as per the experts.
In terms of vaccinating children, it was most likely a decision made to deflect criticism from the media and other interested parties; it may not have any impact on the pandemic's outcome.
It is assumed that vaccinating youngsters has no merit. Even the deadly Delta wave had no effect on youngsters and Omicron will have the same effect. The risk of children acting as carriers of the virus has always existed, which is why adults must be vaccinated. So it is also claimed that there is no basis for keeping schools closed indefinitely.
In the case of booster jabs, frontline workers who received their vaccines between 16 January and 28 February 2021, should receive the third dose.
There is probably no need for a third dose unless there are comorbidities and those who haven't had their second dose in more than nine months can wait. Even, the laboratory tests in India show that our two vaccines show good levels of antibodies even after seven or eight months; the T-cell induced immunity is above and beyond this.
However, it is difficult to say when this pandemic will end, but many experts believe that it would become endemic. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the rise of the Omicron variant was aided by narrow nationalism and vaccine stockpiling in some nations, which weakened equity and created ideal conditions for its formation. And the longer unfairness persists, the greater the chance of this virus developing in unpredictable ways.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said on 30 December: “If we end inequity, we end the pandemic… As we enter the third year of this pandemic, I’m confident that this will be the year we end it – but only if we do it together.”
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