Omicron Variant: In the wake of the emergence of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus/COVID-19 (B.1.1529), which has been classified as ‘Variant of Concern’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) chief Dr Randeep Guleria emphasised the need to be very vigilant and having aggressive surveillance both for international travellers and in the region where there is a sudden increase in the number of cases.Also Read - Muscle Ache, Scratchy Throat, Unfamiliar Symptoms: South Africa Doctor Behind 'Omicron' Alarm Says Suspected Cases Mild

He also stated that the new variant has the potential of developing immune-escape mechanisms as it has reportedly got more than 30 mutations in the spike protein. As most vaccines (work by) forming antibodies against the spike protein, so many mutations at the spike protein region may lead to a decreased efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines”, news agency PTI quoted Guleria as saying.

‘Efficacy of Vaccines Need to be Evaluated Critically’

He asserted that the efficacy of vaccines, including those being administered in India, needs to be “critically” evaluated. “The new Omicron variant of coronavirus has reportedly got over 30 mutations in the spike protein region giving it the potential to develop an immune escape mechanism. In such a scenario, the efficacy of vaccines including those in use in India needs to be evaluated critically”,  said Guleria.

Elaborating further, the AIIMS chief added, “Data on the Omicron variant’s transmissibility, virulence and immune-escape will determine the future course of action.”

Will Omicron Trigger Third Wave? What Are Experts Saying 

Speaking to a news agency, Indian health experts said that it is premature to say if we are about to face the third wave. However, the kind of carelessness that India has seen in the last few months, if the omicron enters the country, it may have a detrimental effect.

“Do not lower our guards and restart taking full precautions as before including social distancing. People need to understand that Covid appropriate behaviour and vaccination are the only ways to stay safe from this variant,” said Animesh Arya, Senior Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, New Delhi.