October 3, 2022

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What experts say for “Omicron will end the global pandemic”?

What experts say for “Omicron will end the global pandemic”?



 

What experts say for “Omicron will end the global pandemic”?

On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the new variant strain B.1.1.529 of the new coronavirus found in South Africa would be named Omicron and listed as a variant of concern (Variant of Concern, VOC) , the new coronavirus variant with the highest risk level. Since then, Omicron has quickly spread around the world and caused a new wave of pandemics.

 

On December 23, 2021, Nature published 5 papers at the same time, showing that the large number of mutations in Omicron led to a greatly improved immune escape, and the protective effect of existing vaccines and neutralizing antibodies was significantly reduced .

 

On January 22, 2022, Nature published two papers at the same time , and found that the infection and pathogenicity of Omicron in preclinical rodent models has decreased .

 

The results actually observed clinically also show that the proportion of severe cases after infection in Omicron is lower than that of the previous new coronavirus strains and mutants. This suggests that Omicron is more moderate, so there is a voice that the massive spread of Omicron could help end the pandemic .

 

A few days ago, Nature released an expert interview article entitled: Will Omicron end the pandemic? Here’s what experts say , discussing whether Omicron will end the COVID-19 pandemic. “Bioworld” is authorized to translate, the following is the brief content:

 

What experts say for "Omicron will end the global pandemic"?

 

On January 11, 2022, just seven weeks after Omicron was first reported, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a global “wave” of Omicron infections from west to east . At this time, 50 of the 53 countries in Europe and Central Asia have reported cases of Omicron infection.

 

In recent weeks, European and American countries have felt the power of the wave of Omicron infections, such as the United Kingdom, which reached a peak of 160,000 new Omicron infections per day in early January.

Omicron’s spread faster than all previous new coronavirus mutants, and beyond people’s imagination.

WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Henri Kluge said countries must respond to the best of their ability based on their epidemiological situation, available resources, vaccination status and socioeconomic background .

 

Although some scientific institutions and scientists believe that a large number of outbreaks of Omicron infection may herald the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is followed by a short-term surge in immunity, so some scientists warn that the current situation is still unstable and also It is difficult to model and analyze, and it is too early to think that Omicron will end the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Graham Medley , an expert in infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, believes that Omicron is spreading so fast that there is little time to prepare any type of response, so decisions must be made under huge uncertainty.

 

 

Spread faster than ever

The number of infected people in Omicron can double in less than two days, which is much faster than all previous new coronavirus mutants and closer to what public health experts expected for milder flu viruses.

Christina Pagel , a healthcare data analyst at University College London (UCL) , said: “We’ve never seen a virus at this speed before, which means you can’t get away with it, and even if you could get everyone vaccinated, a vaccine would still be needed. It takes two weeks to take effect, and the two weeks waiting for the vaccine to take effect is in the middle of the state before it can still be infected by Omicron.

This leaves policymakers and the scientists advising them in a dilemma , either imposing restrictions very early, or doing nothing and letting it take its course. However, if you choose the latter, once something abnormal happens, things will be irreversible.

 

Complex and difficult to model

At the beginning of the Omicron epidemic, scientists in the United Kingdom were confused about how to use the Omicron infection data from South Africa to model the infection. Updating computer models to explain the biology of Omicron was relatively straightforward.

As the pandemic progresses, it becomes more difficult to model the baseline immune response of a country’s population, and therefore to model how to limit Omicron’s transmission.

 

Early in the pandemic, scientists could model with the assumption that most people around the world would be equally susceptible to Covid-19 because Covid-19 is a completely new disease, and no one has a vaccine available and no one has ever been infected.

However, different countries/regions have since adopted different vaccination strategies, different vaccine types, different vaccination rates, and differences in infection and recovery rates, resulting in the now diverse immunization landscape and complicating the situation.

 

Vaccinations vary widely

Mark Woolhouse , an infectious disease scientist at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, said the rate of hospitalization after contracting the new coronavirus is a very critical parameter.

Some researchers have modeled Omicron with the assumption that Omicron will cause the same rate of hospitalization as the previous mutant, which obviously leads to a more pessimistic prediction, and in fact Omicron has shown from the outset lower risk of disease.

However, when modeling through the South African Omicron data, some important details are missing from the data.

For example, we only know that the proportion of severe cases after infection in Omicron has decreased, but how much? Is it 10%, 50%, or 90%? There is no quantitative analysis.

 

Different countries have adopted different vaccination strategies, different vaccine types, different vaccination rates, and different infection and recovery rates, which have resulted in very different immunization baselines for populations in different countries and regions, making it difficult to accurately predict Olympic The worldwide spread of Mikron also makes it difficult to assess the prevalence of Mikron in countries with low vaccination rates.

 

Julian Tang , a virus expert at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom , said that the transmission mode of Omicron in Western Europe, North America and Africa is so different that a model based on data from one region is actually useless for other regions.

 

 

Vaccine protection has dropped significantly

The weakened protection of the vaccine against Omicron infection also complicates the situation.

Laboratory studies have shown that the inactivated virus vaccine , which accounts for nearly half of the 10 billion doses administered globally , produces almost no antibodies against Omicron .

 

Does this mean that Omicron will be more likely to spread in these areas and populations that have been vaccinated against the inactivated virus?

 

That’s not necessarily the case, says Mark Woolhouse , an infectious disease scientist at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom , because vaccines against inactivated viruses may induce a broader immune response to a wider range of strains , and inactivated viruses trigger attacks against viral proteins. immune response, but not the spike protein (S protein) , which is heavily mutated in Omicron. Of course, this is also a matter of concern, and there is no formal analysis report on it yet.

 

The Philippines is mainly vaccinated with inactivated virus vaccines.

At present, Omicron is spreading in large numbers in the Philippines. In January 2022, the number of infected people in the Philippines increased exponentially, especially in the capital Manila.

However, a Philippine health spokesman said that the number of infections in Manila’s Omicron has begun to slow, but other areas are still growing.

 

Currently, the Covid-19 vaccination rate in the Philippines remains low, with only 53% of people fully vaccinated,  Vaccination rates in the Philippines remain relatively low, with only 53% of the population fully vaccinated. Officials there say they hope to vaccinate all 77 million adults in the country by May.

 

Christina Pagel , a healthcare data analyst at University College London (UCL) , said that although the COVID-19 vaccine can still effectively prevent the development of severe disease after infection with Omicron, it is no longer very good at preventing the infection from spreading.

He believes that no vaccine can Provide long-term protection against the new coronavirus .

Julian Tang , a virus expert at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom , believes that a vaccine will not be the way to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

 

When will the COVID-19 epidemic end?

So, how will the COVID-19 pandemic play out? Will Omicron end the coronavirus pandemic?

 

Graham Medley , an expert in infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, believes that Omicron will not be the last mutant strain of the COVID-19 , and the next mutant strain with characteristics will appear.

 

Many scientists believe that the new coronavirus is unlikely to disappear completely, and that Covid-19 will inevitably become an endemic disease .

 

Sebastian Funk , an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, believes that the idea that the new coronavirus will coexist with humans is vague and means different things for different groups of people. , it will be difficult for us to see a very deadly COVID-19 epidemic turned into an endemic disease, or “coexistence with the virus”, but it is difficult to accurately model analysis or predict. Part of the reason is that even the best disease analysis models struggle to make accurate predictions in such a short period of time.

 

Mark Woolhouse , an infectious disease scientist at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, believes that most adults are only truly protected from severe symptoms if they have been exposed to the new coronavirus many times as children and have built up strong natural immunity. Only then will Covid-19 become a truly endemic disease .

This process will take decades, and today’s adults, especially the elderly, were not exposed to the new coronavirus as children, so they still need to continue to be vaccinated.

 

However, this lie-flat strategy has a big flaw, because the way of relying on the new coronavirus infection to establish natural immunity will lead to long-term COVID-19 (Long COVID) in patients , which requires the new coronavirus to develop into a more severe rate during the mutation process.  Mild mutant strains that are lower and lower.

At present, the COVID-19 mutant strains seem to be getting milder and milder, but who can guarantee that the next mutant strain will be even milder?

 

 

References :
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00210-7

What experts say for “Omicron will end the global pandemic”?

(source:internet, reference only)


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