Could the Omicron Variant End the Pandemic?
The omicron variant of COVID-19 is sweeping the U.S.
According to recent data, it could ultimately help the pandemic become endemic.
Deep Dive on the Omicron Variant
Discovered in South Africa in November 2021, the omicron variant has since spread like wildfire. However, researchers have since found that it causes less severe illness than previous COVID-19 variants.
One study revealed that patients admitted to the hospital in South Africa during the fourth wave of the virus (the wave dominated by omicron, the most recent iteration of the disease) were 74% less likely to experience severe illness.
This is linked to the fact that the omicron variant affects the upper respiratory tract more than the lungs. Additionally, the variant helps to create a baseline immunity—immunity that may well spearhead the end of the pandemic.
What Does This Mean for Herd Immunity?
In the words of renowned virologist Dr. David Ho, “Sometimes a rapid-fire could burn through very quickly but then put itself out.”
That’s right: With the COVID-19 vaccine readily available, herd immunity is on the horizon. While the virus may continue to circulate sporadically—or seasonally—in the future, it is slated to become significantly more manageable. Chances are, it’ll be viewed as more of a flu-like illness than a world-ravaging disease.
For a virus to become endemic, the rate of infection must stabilize over the course of several years. Rather than yielding significant, surprise spikes, it must gradually become smaller, weaker, and less impactful.
And while people may have to learn to live with it, the COVID-19 pandemic is almost certainly reaching a must-anticipated end.
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