We must repeatedly emphasise that Omicron is much milder compared to Delta, he said.
The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is "almost unstoppable" and everyone will eventually be infected with it, a top government expert told NDTV. Booster vaccine doses won't stop the rapid spread of the virus, he added. ''It makes no difference. The infection will occur. It has occurred all over the world regardless of this,'' he said about the booster doses.
Stressing that Covid is "not a frightening disease anymore" as the new strain is milder and is leading to much less hospitalisation, he said that it's a disease we can deal with. ''... we are dealing with quite a different virus. It's much milder than Delta, as you all know, not only that, it is practically unstoppable,'' Dr. Jaiprakash Muliyil, epidemiologist and chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the National Institute of Epidemiology at the Indian Council of Medical Research, said, adding that Omicron presents itself just like the cold.
Claiming that natural immunity through infection could be lifelong and that's why India has not been as badly affected as many other countries, he said that 85% of the country was already infected before the vaccines were introduced in the country and hence, the first dose was essentially a booster dose. ''Well, there is a philosophy world over that natural infection doesn't impart any lasting immunity. Now, that is a philosophy which I think is wrong," he said.
Pointing out that no medical bodies suggested booster doses, Dr Muliyil said they won't stop the natural progression of the epidemic. Arguing the same against the testing of asymptomatic close contacts of Covid patients, he said the virus doubles infection in just two days, so even before the test detects its presence, the infected person has already spread it to a large number of people. "So even when you test, you are far far behind. It is not something that will make any difference in the evolution of the epidemic," he said.
"We have not suggested booster dose so far from any of the bodies of the government. To my knowledge, the precautionary dose was just suggested, because there are reports that certain people, mostly in the age group above 60, did not respond to two doses," he said.
"A majority of us will not know we have been infected, probably more than 80% will not even know when we have it," he said.
When asked why we have assumed that only 60 plus individuals have comorbidities in this country and why can't 40 plus individuals have comorbidities, and hence, why aren't they being given the precautionary dose, he said that precautionary dose is given for people with a high risk of "immunological non response".
"Just because you have heart disease or diabetes, it doesn't usually mean immunological incompetence. On the other hand, some other conditions like people going for renal transplant, there is quite a lot immunological depression,'' he added.