The Union Health Ministry on Friday said cases of the new coronavirus variant Omicron are increasingly being reported from countries outside of South Africa and given its characteristics, it is likely to spread to more countries including India. However, the scale and magnitude of the rise in cases and most importantly the severity of the disease that will be caused is still not clear, the Union Health Ministry said.
Regarding the efficacy of existing COVID-19 vaccines against the Omicron variant, the Union Health Ministry said that there is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work against the new variant, but there are some of the mutations reported on Spike gene that may decrease the efficacy of existing vaccines, it added.
"However, vaccine protection is also by antibodies as well as by cellular immunity, which is expected to be relatively better preserved. Hence vaccines are expected to still offer protection against severe disease and, vaccination with the available vaccines is crucial. If eligible, but not vaccinated, one should get vaccinated," the Union Health Ministry added.
It further said the Centre is monitoring the situation closely and is issuing suitable guidelines from time to time. "The precautions and steps to be taken remain same as before. It is essential to mask yourself properly, take both doses of vaccines (if not yet vaccinated), maintain social distancing and maintain good ventilation to the maximum possible," it added.