As the world looks forward to normalcy with the waning Omicron wave, the World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist and technical lead on COVID-19 Dr Maria Van Kerkhove has said that the pandemic is not over yet and the next COVID-19 variant will be more transmissible than the Omicron variant.
“Omicron will not be the last variant you will hear us talking about. The next variant of concern will be more fit, and what we mean by that is it will be more transmissible because it will have to overtake what is currently circulating. The big question is whether or not future variants will be more or less severe,” Kerkhove explained. Kerkhove also said that the next variant may easily evade immunity, thus rendering vaccines less effective.
“We expect that with interventions, if they are used appropriately, we expect there to be a low level of circulation. But with that low level of circulation, there’ll be flare-ups, there will be outbreaks. And those outbreaks will occur in people who are not well protected. Either because they have not been vaccinated because they don’t have access, they refuse to be vaccinated because there is vaccine hesitancy which we are working to address globally,” she said while expounding on the importance of getting inoculated against COVID-19.
Omicron, which was detected in South Africa in late November last year, has replaced Delta as the dominant strain. Omicron is at least two to four time more transmissible than the Delta variant and can evade vaccines on top of a reinfection rate five times than that of Delta.
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