SRINAGAR: Experts have called for booster shots to keep the Omicron variant at bay in Kashmir, even as `Covishield’ inventor has warned that another pandemic could be deadlier.
Delivering the 44th prestigious Richard Dimbleby lecture, Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert, who invented `Covishield’ said the scientific advances made in research for fighting deadly viruses “must not be lost”.
“This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods. “The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both. We cannot allow a situation where we have gone through all we have gone through, and then find that the enormous economic losses we have sustained mean that there is still no funding for pandemic preparedness,” Prof Gilbert said.
Oxford professor is credited with saving millions of lives through her role in designing the coronavirus vaccine. She has been making and testing vaccines for more than 10 years, mainly using antigens from malaria and influenza, and initiated the vaccine project in early 2020 when Covid-19 was first identified in China. The vaccine developed by her team is used in more than 170 countries around the world.
On the Omicron variant, Prof Gilbert said the spike protein of this variant contains mutations already known to increase the transmissibility of the virus.
“But there are additional changes that may mean antibodies induced by the vaccines, or by infection with other variants, may be less effective at preventing infection with Omicron. Until we know more we should be cautious and take steps to slow down the spread of this new variant. But as we have seen before, reduced protection against infection and mild disease does not necessarily mean reduced protection against severe disease and death,” she said.
Doctors in Kashmir have called for booster shots to keep the new variant at bay. “Booster doses would help broaden individual’s immune response against different variants of Covid. The higher levels of antibodies could keep the new variant at bay,” said Dr. Arshad Ali, General Secretary, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK).
According to a new study published in `medRxiv’, the Omicron variant is three times more likely to cause reinfection compared to the Delta variant.
Cautioning against violating SOPs, the health department said mask is the first line of defence to keep all variants at bay.
“You can prevent the enemy at the gates by wearing a mask. Your enemy cannot enter your body if you properly wear a mask. This is the basic principle to keep the infection and variants at bay. Once you violate the rule, the enemy will enter your body,” said Dr. Mir Mushtaq, a spokesman at the Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir (DHSK).
Dr. Mushtaq said all precautions have been taken to fight new Omicron variants. “All international passengers are being quarantined till their RT-PCR reports come negative. Even if they test negative on RAT, they have to wait for RTPCR report,” he said.