The good news so far has been that Omicron generally causes mild illness and therefore has a low rate of death and hospitalization.
As the new variant affects the upper respiratory tract and protects the lungs, there is little demand for oxygen and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds. But after infecting a large number of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, Omicron has put enormous pressure on hospital staff. Dr Shamsher Dwivedi, head of the COVID Task Force at Vimhans Niyati Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi, says that this time manpower is the biggest challenge.
According to the experience of South Africa, where cases dropped sharply shortly after the omicron-triggered peak, and it is now more or less clear that a variety of and major disease causes, that brings us to the most interesting possibility:
Is this the beginning of the end?
Monica Gandhi, a top infectious disease specialist at the University of California, says yes, it looks like, barring no other surprises, Omicron will help end the pandemic. She says Omicron is highly contagious, resulting in many mild breakthrough infections between immunizations (even if extended). However, Omicron is mild even among uninfected people, likely because it may not infect lung cells very well, as shown by several studies, one initiated by the University of Hong Kong, the other by a college. by the University of London, and several animal studies. ,
Omicron infection confers broad immunity to other types and so a mild success would boost immunity to vaccination (even for other types) and provide unimmunized immunity to COVID-19 when exposed. So, she says, unless we have a newer variant that is more virulent or evades immunity, it seems likely that Omicron will be the version that propels us from the pandemic to the endemic phase.
But not everyone is so optimistic. Pune-based immunologist Dr Vinita Bal says that the pandemic will not go away unless there is a large population with immunity to the coronavirus present globally. Globally, children are still not vaccinated. Thus, it would be a short-sighted prediction to think that the epidemic will soon go away, Dr. Bal says.
“Less severe disease” is a relative term, says Dwivedi. Mild or severe doesn’t matter as covid can cause blood clots and stroke. Heart attacks are common in the winter season. Hence people with high blood pressure and diabetes are vulnerable to it.
Why are masks mandates important?
Dwivedi says that even though Omicron is causing mild symptoms in younger people, they must wear a mask. This is only to protect the elderly who are vulnerable. Even though Omicron will continue to infect large numbers of people, the mask will help reduce the viral load, making the disease less severe.
Do Vaccines Work Against Omicron and What About Newer Variants?
Yes, vaccines work against all types, says Dr. Gandhi. Our response to vaccines (and why we still see mild infections after vaccination) is likely due to antibody versus B and T cell responses. Although antibodies (our main line of defense for upper respiratory tract symptoms such as mild breakthrough) may decrease over time or be influenced by mutations with spike proteins such as omicrons, we now know that T cells from vaccines are not yet developed. It also acts against omicrons and B cells. (generated by vaccines) adapt the new antibodies they produce to work against the variants. Therefore, the protection provided by vaccines against serious disease (but not mild breakthrough infections even with boosters) is holding up very well, Dr. Gandhi says.
According to Dr Gandhi, new variants will continue to emerge but T cell immunity is strong and the spike protein provides a broad response, so our current vaccines will suffice. So we won’t need new vaccines every time.
Dr Vinita Bal says that pre-existing immunity, whether due to infection or vaccination, will provide adequate protection against new forms.
How effective are lockdowns?
Dwivedi says that the cases of Covid patients admitted in hospitals are increasing day by day and the sharp surge of Omicron can overload hospitals very soon. He says there may not be a scientific rationale behind the lockdowns, but they certainly slow down the pace of spread and in turn help the healthcare system as they do not go beyond limits. He says that given the scale of omicron infections, if a small percentage of the unvaccinated population becomes infected and some of them require hospitalization, this could have a significant impact on hospital workloads. Will put Here, lockdowns help as they limit the spread and therefore reduce the burden on hospitals.
In short, as governments around the world scramble to change COVID strategies to live with the virus, Dr Gandhi says it is important to note that for a number of reasons, including the presence of animal reservoirs, long infectious periods, failure is involved. Vaccines to provide sterilizing immunity, and the fact that COVID is similar to other respiratory syndromes, make “Covid Zero” unachievable. However, even without eradication, we can still control COVID-19 and we are getting closer to that point. The key to this is full immunization of the eligible population and prompt timely immunization of children.