An employee from the National Health Organization (EODY) prepares a Johnson and Johnson vaccine against COVID-19 at Karatepe refugee camp, on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, on December 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Panagiotis Balaskas, File)
Pandemics do end, even if Omicron is making it difficult to know when. But when it does, it will not completely go away. The world will have to learn to live with this virus. Luckily, there are some defenses now.
Vaccines offer strong protection from serious illness, even if they do not always prevent a mild infection. Omicron does not appear to be as deadly as some earlier variants. Those who survive will have some increased protection against other forms of the virus.
Dr. Albert Ko is an infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Public health. He said the newest variant is a warning about what will continue to happen “unless we really get serious about the endgame.”
Ko added that COVID will be with us permanently. He said that the world will never be free of COVID, so we have to know our goals.
The World Health Organization will decide when enough countries have controlled their COVID cases, or at least hospitalizations and deaths, to declare the end of the pandemic. Exactly what that means is not clear.
Even when that happens, some parts of the world will still struggle, like poorer nations that lack enough vaccines or treatments. Other countries will change into some sort of acceptable state to deal with COVID-19.
Stephen Kissler is an infectious disease expert of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He says he believes the world will reach a state where COVID is like another infectious disease, the flu.
COVID-19 has killed more than 800,000 Americans in two years while the flu kills between 12,000 and 52,000 a year.
Exactly how much continuing COVID-19 illness and death the world will accept is largely a social question, not a scientific one. People will have to decide how much risk they can accept in their normal lives.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top United States infectious disease expert, is looking ahead to controlling the virus in a way that does not affect daily life and the economy.
The U.S. is showing signs that it is on the road to the new normal. The Biden administration says there are enough tools, like vaccines, treatments, and face coverings, to deal with Omicron without the shutdowns of the pandemic’s earlier days.
Dr. William Moss of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health expects “this virus will kind of max out” in its ability to create more dangerous variants. He says he believes there will not be endless new variants.
Many experts say after the pandemic, the virus will cause minor illness for some and more serious illness for others, depending on their general health. Mutations will continue and might require newer vaccines. The human body will also get better at recognizing and fighting against the virus as time goes on.
Ali Ellebedy is a doctor that studies the immune system, which protects the body from diseases and infections. He is an immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Ellebedy said the protection our bodies have gained has improved so much that there will be a drop in severe illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths, even with new variants.
He says he believes there will be a day when someone gets a coronavirus infection, they stay home two to three days and then "...move on. That hopefully will be the endgame.”
Words in This Story
pandemic – n. an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area or throughout the world
variant – n. something that is different in some way from others of the same kind
endgame – n. the final stage of some action or process
max out – phr. v. to reach an upper limit: to come to the highest level possible
mutation – n. a change in the genes of a plant or animal that causes physical characteristics that are different from what is normal