New Delhi : Indian companies manufacturing essential medical equipment and supplies have bolstered their supply chain and production capacity amidst the rising fears of a possible third wave due to the emergence of Omicron. The uncertainty around the new variant has further raised fears around its severity, capability to evade immunity and transmissibility.
Described as a ‘variant of concern’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the unpredictability of the new variant warrants a well prepared health infrastructure and availability of medical devices and equipment including lifesaving ventilators.
The task force appointed by the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) had recommended stockpiling of at least 50 critical medical devices and spread across four geographical zones with a view to navigate through any possible third wave in the country last year. These included prescribed medicines and essential medical devices like ventilators and concentrators. The need to store medical devices and medicines has again risen to prepare the healthcare system for a possible surge in cases.
Giving insights into how suppliers of essential medical equipment are gearing up for any possible third wave, Ashok Patel, Founder, Max Ventilator said, “Driven by the need to make up for the general shortage of ventilators experienced in the early phases of the pandemic last year, we had already augmented our capacities in keeping with the sudden rise in demand which we further ramped up exponentially during the disastrous second wave in the country. Simultaneously, we had also assiduously worked on developing new products bringing them to the market. Although no one is yet quite sure of how far-reaching the health implications of Omicron would be, we are not taking any chances. We have further firmed up our supply chain networks, bolstering our input components and materials supplies from vendors and suppliers while cranking up average production capacity levels.”
Although uncertainty revolves around the newly detected variant with numerous mutations, preliminary analysis has suggested it to be milder than the variants earlier discovered. Giving the expert’s perspective on the same, Dr Soumyajit Mandal, Consultant Anesthesiologist, formerly attached to SSKM, IPGMER, Kolkata said “From a practitioner’s point of view, the first thing that this new variant indicates is that the symptoms are milder as compared to the Delta virus. They could range from mild to moderate fever to fatigue to scratchy throat and not sore throat, to night sweats and body ache to dry cough. So, people should be aware of and alert to these conditions. However, the numerous mutations in the spike protein region also signify that the variant could turn immune-escape thereby possibly being less responsive to the effects of the existing vaccines. Yet, there is no doubt that vaccination provides a stronger and surer protection than no-vaccination at all. “
Elaborating on the increased transmissibility of the variant, the doctor added, “So far, the variant has also been found to be highly transmissible, more than the Delta variant, which itself is a matter of concern. For now, it would be too early to make any definitive conclusion in terms of the severity of impact such as hospitalization and death thatOmicron could cause in people, as compared to the Delta variant. In other words the full impact in terms of the virulence and the pathogenicity of the Omicron variant is yet to be established. Yet, the best protection against the new variant or any other variant for that matter is to keep our healthcare facilities and equipment supplies in a state of full-preparedness apart from continuing to observe Covid-appropriate behaviour.”
India has seen a rapid surge in Omicron cases detected in the country, with Maharashtra reporting over 50 cases of the new variant and cases crossing 150 in the country. Experts have suggested extreme caution and COVID-Approriate Behaviour to prevent the variant from spreading further.