While the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus seems less virulent than the previous ones, some scientists have estimated that the end of the pandemic could come with this mutation being the last. Sometimes positive and sometimes negative messages from the World Health Organization have also cast doubt on this possibility.
At the end of 2021, scientists began to conduct research on the new Omicron variant detected for the first time in South Africa. The first information that emerged estimates that this mutation of the coronavirus would be less virulent than the Delta, which signed the wave of summer 2021.
For several days, scientists also considered that it could be that Omicron is not fatal, but the first cases of death have canceled this possibility, even if according to the trends in many countries, Omicron does not seem to increase the death toll although it is more contagious.
Faced with this low mortality rate and these symptoms less virulent than the previous variants, the possibility of the end of the coronavirus pandemic gradually taking shape, especially after the declarations of the head of the WHO, who went in this sense, at the end of the year.
“2022 is the year when we can end the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, technical manager for the fight against this pandemic within the WHO. For his part, the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus affirmed that “2022 must be the year when we will end the pandemic”.
Except that these messages were interpreted by several people as the signal that Omicron was not to be taken as seriously as the previous variants and that it could circulate freely since it was not so virulent as that. But Tuesday evening, the WHO came again to warn against possible more dangerous mutations of Omicron, in particular because of wider distribution.
Omicron is no less virulent for everyone
Contacted by MoroccoLatestNews FR, Dr. Tayeb Hamdi explains why the idea of collective immunity by disease is false and reveals the dangers of the spread of the Omicron variant.
“We know that Omicron, from the available studies, is less virulent in vaccinated people, even partially vaccinated people and people who have already had covid”, he began by explaining, indicating that even an immunity against the coronavirus protects these people against severe forms of the disease.
And to cite the case of South Africa where 70% of the population has already had the disease before the Omicron variant, or Great Britain where more than 80% of the population is vaccinated. These populations “have a certain immunity, it is however not sufficient to protect them against the infection”, he affirms.
On the other hand “we are not certain that Omicron is less virulent in unvaccinated people or people who have not been previously infected with the coronavirus”.
Immunization without vaccination is “walking on corpses”
Regarding collective immunity by disease, the doctor believes “even if we assume that Omicron is less virulent than the other variants, this does not mean that it is the end of the pandemic or that it should be left circulate”.
“If we let Omicron circulate without barrier measures, without vaccination, it will affect billions of people around the world, but a virus that spreads more and multiplies risks developing more mutations and causing variants to emerge,” he said. -he asserted, emphasizing that there is no guarantee that these variants will be less virulent. On the contrary, there is a good chance that they will be more deadly, he said.
And to consider that it is “unimaginable” to think that collective immunity can be reached by letting the disease spread, “it is inconceivable and it is a great risk”, decided Tayeb Hamdi.
“If some people think that we will be able to immunize the planet by letting Omicron spread, that means that these people want to achieve immunity for the planet but by stepping on the corpses of tens of millions of deaths by covid”, added the member of the technical commission.
For the doctor, it is necessary not to forget that, beyond its low virulence, Omicron remains a coronavirus. “Even if we assume that it is less virulent that does not mean that it does not kill” and it is more transmissible than Delta.
Finally, Dr. Hamdi also reminds that an infection with Omicron does not mean either that the person will not be infected a second time, considering that reinfection is a risk since immunity is not durable.
3 conditions for immunity collection by disease
The health policy and systems researcher presented the 3 optimal conditions for a population to achieve herd immunity through disease. “It (the disease) must not be fatal, and this is not the case with Omicron”, he began by asserting.
The second condition assumes that the disease does not cause variants, and the third, that immunity is durable after the disease “something that we cannot guarantee”, with the coronavirus which has demonstrated an average of 6 months of ‘immunity.
However, Omicron is a real chance to overcome the pandemic, in particular because of this low virulence. Dr. Hamdi believes that it will essentially be necessary to respect the barrier measures, especially with Omicron, to limit its spread and the risks of variants, to vaccinate as widely as possible and as completely as possible (with booster doses), to allow a kick-start. stopping the spread of the virus.
And to note that it is also necessary to overcome vaccine hesitancy and to distribute vaccines in an equitable manner throughout the world “so that Omicron finds in front of it populations that are already immunized”.