As an impending third wave stares at us in the face here in India, concerns are being raised regarding the effectiveness of existing vaccines against the new variant, Omicron. One of the primary questions being asked is whether the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine, Covishield, can put up a fight against the highly contagious variant. While there is a long way before conclusive evidence comes to light, some studies do provide some information and a possible answer to the ‘Covishield vs omicron’ debate.
Knowing what we are up against
Before we find out how effective a tool Covishield is, we should be abreast with what we already know about the new variant. Omicron’s roots can be traced back to South Africa, where the first case was detected. Since then, it has traversed the world and spread like wildfire. This confirms one thing: the rate of spreading is very high this time.
The first case in India was found in December in Karnataka. The variant has started to engulf large parts of the subcontinent as well. While the severity of this variant is yet to be confirmed, there has been a lot of talk surrounding the role of vaccines in fighting this wave. Many opine that to battle omicron, Covishield might be the weapon we need.
A booster shot is the way to go
In a study done at Oxford last month, it was revealed that those who had taken 3rd dose of Covishield had a higher antibody level. Previous studies had talked at length regarding the effectiveness of a two-dose vaccination against the Delta variant. Although done on a small sample of 41 people, the recent study shows that three doses do increase the chances of increased effectiveness of covishield against omicron.
More studies suggest that two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, coupled with a booster shot, offer 70-75% efficacy against the new variant. Hence, with time and more surveys, the question of “is Covishield effective against omicron” will get its due answers.
Time for India to think about a third jab?
As of 5th January 2022, 61.5 crore people in India have been fully vaccinated with two doses, which accounts for 44.5% of the total population. Children belonging to the 15-18 year age group have also started receiving the first dose of Covaxin. The aforementioned Oxford study may suggest that a booster shot is the way to go, but the fact remains that more than half of India’s population is yet to be fully vaccinated.
Keeping the sudden surge in cases in mind, the government has decided to begin giving boosters to health workers, frontline workers and those above 60 years of age with co-morbidities from January 10, 2022. This was a crucial and much-needed step. Possibly, all other age groups too will soon afterwards come under the ambit of the third dose. But more importantly, the country should want to make sure everyone receives their first two doses. So, if you are yet not fully vaccinated, book your slot right away.
Follow safety protocols in the meantime
As you wait your chance in line for your booster in the form of covishield, omicron will continue to rage outside. Therefore everyone would be best advised to keep on adhering to the safety measures. These include:
- Avoid going out of your house unless absolutely required.
- Mask up properly when stepping out of your home.
- Keep sanitizing and washing your hands.
- Make sure to complete your vaccination course at the earliest.
- Do not ignore even the mild symptoms of illness and consult a doctor immediately.
You might come across news clippings and primetime shows with headlines asking “does covishield work against omicron”. In reality, we all need to wait for some more time before we can say anything with certainty. But there is no doubt that the vaccine is in fact the first step towards curbing this pandemic. Stay cautious, stay safe and save lives.
The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.