India could be Less Vulnerable to Omicron, Mild Peak Likely by Feb: Covid Supermodel Panel

Members of the National Covid-19 Supermodel Committee says the UK model is irrelevant to India since the former has low sero-positivity and has depended mostly on mRNA vaccines.

As the United Kingdom continues to witness a higher number of Covid-19 cases due to the advent of the “incredibly fast” Omicron variant, India looks less vulnerable, M Vidyasagar, the head of the National Covid-19 Supermodel Committee told

Vidyasagar, professor at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Hyderabad, believes that “the UK model is irrelevant to India”.

“There are two reasons. First, the UK has low sero-positivity and high vaccine penetration, while India has both which makes India less vulnerable,” he said. Citing the second reason, he said, “The UK uses mostly mRNA vaccines that seem to offer protection only for a short duration. In India, we haven’t used these vaccines.”

A low sero-positivity means less infection gained through natural infection.

The committee, headed by Professor Vidyasagar, also comprises Professor Manindra Agrawal of IIT-Kanpur and Lt Gen Madhuri Kanitkar, the deputy chief of the Army Medical Service. It was formed by the Narendra Modi government to make projections on the likely spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to fresh estimates generated by the members based on the advent of Omicron in India, the country could see a rise in cases in January followed by a peak by the end of February. However, these findings have not been shared with the government and have been made on an individual level. The panel’s last official meeting was held in September 2020.

The panel’s other member, Manindra Agrawal, told, “As per our latest assessment, based on data coming from South Africa, the UK, and Denmark, we may see a rise in January that could peak around February-end.”

However, he refrained from putting an estimate in terms of the number of cases per day. “Numbers are a bit uncertain at the moment as it is hard to estimate the exact amount of immune escape that could take place in India. Data from other countries is still quite partial.”

Immune escape or immune evasion occurs when a person’s immune system is no longer able to recognise and eliminate the virus.

Agrawal, however, added that the peak will be much smaller than the peak of the second Covid-19 wave in India. Adding a disclaimer, he said, “This is tentative (projection) and is likely to change once more data arrives.”

Indeed, the panel’s previous predictions have changed over the last two weeks due to additional information coming in from other countries.

With India detecting several Covid-19 cases of the Omicron variant despite no travel history, Agrawal said that the panel assumes community transmission has already started. “When making predictions, we assume the community transmission has started. This is a pessimistic assumption, and tells us how bad things can go.”

News 18

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