Omicron Could Signal the End of the COVID-19 Pandemic 

“The virus does not want to kill its host,” says Dr. Warner Greene, former director of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and current senior investigator. “That is ineffective.” That could explain why Omicron is so easily transmitted but not particularly dangerous to those who have some protection, particularly from vaccines, making it possible that this particular version of the virus will persist in the human population for years and years to come. 

That is the path that public health officials hope SARS-CoV-2 will take, following in the footsteps of other common coronaviruses. “The best-case scenario is that the virus becomes so weakened that it simply becomes a vaccine,” Greene says. “It would spread, but it would not cause serious illness.” In that case, the virus would lose its foothold and become endemic in very small areas, replicating only when it came across people who had not previously been infected or vaccinated.” 

That is, of course, assuming that the majority of the world’s population has been vaccinated or has recovered from being naturally infected with Omicron. The fewer opportunities SARS-CoV-2 has to replicate and produce more copies of itself, the fewer people will become infected and sick.

Every variant in the virus’s two-year history is the direct result of unchecked viral replication, so closing down as many of those opportunities as possible is the surest way to turn COVID-19 from a pandemic to an endemic disease. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last year, it’s that variants will continue to emerge,” says Ho. “What will be beneficial is the development of growing immunity, whether from vaccines or infections.” This will aid in the protection of the population from the next one.” 

By Alice Park

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