A top epidemiology and communicable diseases expert on Monday said people should get themselves vaccinated at the earliest and not sit back thinking the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is milder because the virus will hunt for the “unvaccinated, the old and immunodeficient”.
Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), further said one must not wait for herd immunity to set in as that process will take time and a lot of people may die.
“Instead of waiting for natural immunity (by infection), if we go for induced immunity through the vaccine, it will be good and the damage will be minimal. Getting an infection is never good even if it is mild. Today, it (Omicron) may look milder but has anyone thought of long-term effects on the human body,” the health expert asked.
Asked if the current situation was the beginning of the end of the pandemic, Dr Gangakhedkar said the scare would persist till the vaccination coverage rises dramatically.
“After this, one thing will happen. The virus will start hunting for those who are unvaccinated, those who are older, and those who have immunodeficiency,” he asserted.
As per research, the Omicron variant has the ability to spread rapidly and even evades vaccine-induced immunity, he added.
“In such conditions, if the maximum number of people get infections, the virus will make further mutations. The more chance we give to the virus, it will generate more mutations,” he said.
“(Rather than) thinking that any such mutations will favor humans as virulence level of the virus will go down and it will go away naturally, it is better everyone gets vaccinated,” the expert added.
He said the virus becomes stable when everyone gets infected and then will try to lead a symbiotic relationship, but waiting for this happen and not taking vaccines is “stupidity”.
“Instead, the available preventive options are vaccination and COVID appropriate behaviour or CAB,” Dr Gangakhedkar stressed.