Could the COVID-19 pandemic end with the omicron rush as the virus turns into a pandemic? This is what the experts say
It is expected that infections will decrease and levels of community immunity will rise from a combination of vaccines, antiviral drugs and omicron infection as the epidemic enters a new phase – turning into a pandemic.
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This sentiment resonates with infectious disease experts in the field.
“The end game is bringing the virus down to low levels where we live with it. And what the omicron will do is bring the virus down to low levels in the community because it causes a lot of immunity,” says Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “It will bring it down to a controllable stage, which we call endemicity. So after this surge, we have to be at the end of the epidemic game and endemic.”
“In the next few weeks, we expect the numbers to start dropping very soon in California, and there is evidence that this is happening elsewhere as well. So what we really hope to happen is to move to a stage where I know we have to live with this virus,” she says. Professor of pediatrics (infectious diseases) and epidemiology and population health at Stanford Medicine, says Dr. Yvonne Maldonado.
All four doctors interviewed for ABC7 News in San Francisco said they believe SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay but expressed cautious optimism that we are approaching a corner for the better.
“It should end up being an epidemic at some point, so yeah, I think it will be this year. It was based largely on what we see in other countries that may have been vaccinated more than we are now,” says Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California in San Francisco, that if we want to control transmission, we need to vaccinate and boost it.
All four clinicians refer to vaccinations as the main pathway to achieve endemicity.
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“Out of the 1.2 million people in a given healthcare study who were fully vaccinated, only 36 people died in that group. And there were about 2,500 infections. So the infection rate was about 0.2%. So if you were vaccinated, you’re likely to get omicron and get infected.” With an infection, your risk of serious illness, death or other complications would be very low.So again, I can’t stress enough how important it is to get people vaccinated because that would be our way out of this epidemic,” says Dr. Maldonado.
“I think there is an opportunity to get out of the epidemic — which means big spikes in hospitalizations and deaths, and maybe we get to a point where the virus spreads with fewer hospitalizations and deaths and maybe the same or more infections, but not so bad outcomes. And we have to. We’re learning to live with that through vaccinations. And we have to learn more about whether we can stop wearing masks sometime later this year. If the disease becomes less severe.”
However, Dr. Wachter says that while he can expect a drop in infections with some confidence in the spring and possibly summer, he is not confident of saying the same about the fall and winter later this year. “A lot of it depends on whether there is a new and worse variant.”
He also says that the amount of immunity from omicron infection alone is still unknown. “For unvaccinated people, if their only immunity is from infection, it really all depends on how good that immunity is and how long it lasts. If it starts to dwindle, and they become vulnerable again, we could see another big increase. But I’m moderately optimistic. ‘ says Dr. Wachter.
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