India sees impact of Omicron blunted by vaccination, prior infections

India expects the Omicron variant of coronavirus to cause less severe disease, the health ministry said on Friday, thanks to vaccinations and high prior exposure to the Delta variant that infected nearly 70% of the population by July.

Junior doctors protested to demand that staff numbers be beefed up, warning of a disastrous situation if the new variant overwhelmed health care facilities, although nearly half of India’s 944 million adults have been fully vaccinated.

As many as 84% have received at least one dose, with more than 125 million people due for a second by the end of November, as the government pushes more to get inoculated in the face of Omicron.

“Given the fast pace of vaccination in India and high exposure to Delta variant … the severity of the disease is anticipated to be low,” the ministry said in a statement. “However, scientific evidence is still evolving.”

Both of India’s first two Omicron patients, reported on Thursday, showed mild symptoms, the ministry added.

But concern over the prospect of a third wave of infections has grown after the variant was found in the southern state of Karnataka, in one person with no recent travel history.

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