Updated: November 29, 2021 7:04:58 pm
Fears about the new COVID “variant of concern” B.1.1.529, named Omicron, were felt in the country’s financial capital and across Maharashtra in a sudden spurt in the number of vaccinations, and in enquiries at hospitals for booster shots.
On Saturday, the state administered 8,39,005 vaccinations — the highest one-day inoculation recorded in November. With the flattening of the pandemic curve in Maharashtra, 92 lakh people have so far not taken a second dose of the vaccination. Of this, 3.5 lakh are from Mumbai.
“Every time there is a new variant or rise in cases, people rush to get the jab. In the last two days, the number of beneficiaries in private hospitals surged by nearly 10%. The number will rise further in the next week. I hope this fear helps us meet 100% immunization,” said Dr Gautam Bhansali of Bombay Hospital, who is the BMC-appointed coordinator of Covid-19 beds in private hospitals.
The new variant, first detected in South Africa, has now been reported in several other countries including the UK, Israel and Australia. So far, no case has been reported in India.
Queries about booster doses have also shot up.
“People who have taken the jab at the start of the mass immunization programme in January 2021 are more apprehensive as we know that the vaccines remain effective for 6-7 months. We are getting a large number of queries from the elderly population, who got inoculated in April, about the booster shot,” said Dr Joy Chakraborty, Chief Operating Officer, Hinduja Hospital.
Till November 28, over 3.8 core — roughly 40 out of every 100 persons in the state – were fully vaccinated. Doctors say getting fully vaccinated will offer protection from the new variant, which is highly transmissible, even though there are concerns that it may be resistant to the vaccines available at the moment.
“In just two weeks, Omicron replaced the Delta variant in South Africa. It is 500% times more transmissible. Thus, WHO had to fast track it and declared it as a ‘variant of concern’. But as the initial reports from South Africa shows that most of the infected patients have mild symptoms, there is a possibility that it is less virulent,” said Dr Shashank Joshi, part of the Covid-19 task force.
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