NTAGI chief, Health News, ET HealthWorld

Covid-19: Breakthroughs with BA.4, BA.5 mild, jabs work: NTAGI chiefPune: Breakthrough infections from BA.4 and BA.5 – the Omicron subvariants that have been detected in Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Maharashtra – all led to mild Covid and are unlikely to cause waves or burden hospitals, central officials have said.

Dr NK Arora, head of the Covid-19 working group at the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), told TOI on Sunday that with newer sub-lineages of Omicron, infections can occur after the first two doses or even after the precaution shot. However, he said patients who’ve experienced these breakthroughs in states reporting the subvariants had ordinary “cold and cough symptoms” and didn’t need hospitalisation.

In Maharashtra, seven patients from Pune city were found with the Omicron subvariants on Saturday – four had BA.4 while the rest had BA.5. All except a nine-year-old on the list were vaccinated. One individual had taken the booster shot as well.

“The newer sublineages of Omicron have been detected in three states and we’re likely to see more such cases. But these breakthrough infections caused by Omicron sublineages are unlikely to burden the existing health infrastructure because of India’s intensified vaccination programme,” Dr Arora said.

He added that studies indicate vaccines also cut risk of long Covid by 30-40%.

He said, “While 88% of our adult population has been fully vaccinated, we are urging the remaining to get their shots at the earliest. The risk from new variants and sublineages remains and vaccines will keep the infection mild, cut burden on health systems and ensure economic activity goes on unhindered.”

Dr Arora, also the co-chairperson of INSACOG, said the network has asked all states to intensify contact tracing and focus on Covid clusters forming in an area.

Other experts also called for increased vigilance. “The sub-variants of Omicron (BA.4 and BA.5) are not going to cause a surge. Still, we need to be vigilant,” said Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, co-chairperson of the Indian Medical Association’s national task force.

Maharashtra’s genome sequencing head Dr Rajiv Karyakarte said they have been keeping a close eye on the genome sequencing scene. It’s this vigilance by the Pune INSACOG team, in coordination with the BJ medical college and IISER Pune, that helped detect BA. 4 and BA. 5 in samples from the city, he said.

“The samples that tested positive after sequencing were breakthrough cases as all of them were vaccinated except the patient below 10 years of age. None were hospitalised. We have to focus on collecting samples systematically. Those who test positive via antigen kits need to do an RT-PCR test so that their samples can be sent for sequencing,” Dr Karyakarte said.

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