White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday it is still too soon to predict whether the omicron Covid-19 variant will mark the final wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is an open question whether it will be the live virus vaccination that everyone is hoping for,” Fauci said via videoconference at Davos.
The omicron variant, while highly contagious, has been found to be less severe than previous variants, sparking hope that it could bring about the end of the pandemic.
“I would hope that that’s the case. But that would only be the case if we don’t get another variant that eludes the immune response of the prior variant,” Fauci said.
Still, even if omicron does emerge as the final variant of Covid-19, it is unlikely that it would mean endgame for the virus entirely, he added. Rather, it will remain present in society at an endemic level.
“Control means you have it present but it is present at a level that does not disrupt society,” Fauci said. “That’s my definition of what endemicity would mean.”
Fauci was speaking alongside a panel of public health experts who agreed that omicron will likely become the dominant strain of Covid-19 globally in 2022. However, they were divided on whether it would be the final strain.
“It is indeed too early really to call it endemic. There is a high probability that we will have a new variant,” said Annelies Wilder-Smith, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
A new variant is likely to be less severe, looking at previous versions, but it remains important to prepare for the worst, she said.