What the Omicron variant means for the future of the pandemic


SHIELD testing took place in one of the West gyms before being moved to former ISS room. Studentts who participate in clubs and athletics are re- quiredto test throughout the school year. Photo courtesy of Megan Krok.

Natalie Bartelt, News Editor

While there continues to be uncertainty about COVID-19 variants further mutating, Omicron could potentially bring the pandemic to, somewhat, an end.

Experts in Oregon have shared their findings that if an individual catches COVID-19 before or after receiving the vaccine, it could create what has been named “super immunity.”

The study from Oregon Health and Science University shows that antibodies react 10 or more times more powerful in a vaccinated person that got Omicron than a vaccinated individual who never caught the virus.

Oregon Dr. Marcel Curlin voiced that “these results, together with our previous work, point to a time when SARS-CoV-2 may become a mostly mild endemic infection like a seasonal respiratory tract infection, instead of a worldwide pandemic.”

Not only is there talk of “super immunity,” but as the variant passes through populations due to its high transmission, scientists suggest that mass immunity could come with it as variants and sub-variants become less drastic.

Fire Rescue Chief for Tampa Barbara Tripp claimed in a Jan. press conference it is likely that “everybody’s going to get it.”

Omicron and sub-variants could then potentially become more manageable and the pandemic could become, like the flu, an endemic. It is expected that viruses mutate and change, especially more contagious ones.

A new sub-variant named BA. 2, or stealth Omicron, has already been discovered in at least 40 countries with more than 100 cases in the U.S., but Danish virologist Anders Fomsgaard told The Washington Post, “We are not so concerned.”

A virologist at Imperial College Tom Peacock tweeted that “early observations” suggest that there is “no dramatic difference in severity” in comparison to BA.1, the original Omicron variant. BA. 2 is found to be even more transmissible, but Peacock expressed, “I would be very surprised if BA.2 caused a second wave at this point.”

Despite it being 1.5 times more contagious, BA.2 has not been named a variant of concern by the World Health Organization. Numbers are expected to drop in the foreseeable future after cases surged in many states, with a recent 42 percent national case drop according to a Washington Post tracker.

Illinois health officials reported a 51 percent decrease in weekly COVID-19 cases and a 28 percent mortality decrease.
There remains a lot left to the unknown, but research on Omicron seems to point to the more positive side of the future.