Covid-19 vaccine ‘precaution’ dose roll-out: Rise in R-value & Omicron threat among factors

As of Sunday, Union health ministry data shows that 422 Omicron cases have been detected across 17 states and union territories in India so far.

Covid-19 vaccine 'precaution' dose roll-out: Rise in cases & Omicron threat among factors
The decision to administer a third vaccine dose comes amid rising Covid cases linked to the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus in the country. (Reuters/File Photo)

Covid-19 vaccine ‘precaution’ dose: In a televised address late on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi informed the nation that Covid-19 vaccination of children between 15-18 years will begin from January 3 next year. A “precaution dose” for frontline and healthcare workers would also begin from January 10. Prime minister further announced that a precaution dose — or the third dose of vaccine — will be available for those above 60 years of age with comorbidities on their doctor’s advice.

These decisions have come amid rising Covid cases linked to the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus in the country. This, alongwith the rise in R-value, the duration since frontline workers were vaccinated, and a sharp rise in Omicron cases among vaccinated countries in the West, could be among the factors that led to Saturday’s announcement.

Rise in Omicron cases in India:

The decision to administer booster doses to healthcare and frontline professionals and senior citizens with comorbidities comes at a time when there has been a rapid rise in the number of Omicron cases, and in Covid-19 positive cases in general.

The sudden spike in cases of highly-infectious Omicron variant has stoked fear of a third Coronavirus wave in the country. As of Sunday, Union health ministry data shows that 422 Omicron cases have been detected across 17 states and union territories in India so far.

As far as the spread goes, Maharashtra has recorded the highest number of Omicron cases at 108, followed by Delhi at 79, Gujarat 43, Telangana 41, Kerala 38, Tamil Nadu 34 and Karnataka 31.

Rise in the R-value:

The R-value is the average number of people that contract the virus from an infected person. Hence, the R reproduction number is considered an indicator of how fast a disease spreads. Cases begin to rise sharply after the value goes beyond 1.

The R-value has exceeded the value of 1 in many states. As per an IE report, data churned by researchers at Chennai’s Institute of Mathematical sciences shows that R-value has risen beyond 1 in Maharashtra. A few days back it crossed 1 in Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata as well. Other than these, states of Karnataka and Gujarat have also been logging a rapid rise in cases.

Omicron-led surge in the West:

The Omicron variant has led to a surge in Covid-19 cases across European countries. Although effects of Coronavirus’ Omicron variant have so far not been as fatal as its previous variants — perhaps due to the variant’s inherent nature, or because countries like Spain, France and the United Kingdom have achieved high vaccination coverage — a waning effect of the vaccine in the next few months could see this scenario change.

The UK has been clocking over a lakh cases in the past few days and registered its highest-ever daily case tally since the outbreak began. A similar scenario could turn ugly for India if the country were to experience a similar surge a few months down the line and the effects of the vaccine would’ve furthered worn down by then. Hence, the need for a precautionary booster dose.

Duration since frontline workers got vaccinated:

The Covid vaccination campaign was kicked off in the country on January 16 this year with healthcare and frontline workers getting the jabs on priority. A booster would make sense as almost 11 months have passed since this highly-vulnerable group was vaccinated.

In his address, PM Modi said that over 90% of the adult population of the country has received at least one dose of the vaccine, while over 61% of the same demography has received both vaccine doses. So far, more than 141.6 crore vaccine doses have been administered in the country.

Earlier on Saturday, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) granted emergency use authorisation to indigenously-developed Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for children above 12 years with certain conditions. With this Covaxin became the second vaccine to receive DCGI’s nod for use among those below 18 years after Zydus Cadila’s needle-free COVID-19 vaccine ZyCoV-D.

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