Could the COVID-19 pandemic end with this omicron surge as the virus turns endemic? Here’s what experts say

SAN FRANCISCO — The pandemic is “reasonably likely” to be expected to end within a month of today, although COVID-19 is likely to remain, according to the chairman of the Department of Medicine at the San Francisco Department of Medicine. ‘UCSF, Dr. Robert Wachter .

He expects infections to decline and community immunity levels to rise through a combination of vaccinations, antiviral drugs and omicron infections as the pandemic enters a new phase – becoming endemic.

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This sentiment is shared by other infectious disease experts in the field.

“The end of the game is really to bring the virus down to low levels where we just live with it. And what omicron will do is bring the virus down to low levels in the community because it causes so much immunity, “said Dr Monica Gandhi, Doctor of Infectious Diseases and Professor of Medicine at UCSF. “That will bring it back to a controllable phase, which we call endemicity. So, after this surge, we should be at the end of the pandemic game and endemic.”

“Over the next few weeks, we expect the numbers to start dropping very soon in California, and there is some evidence that this is happening elsewhere as well. So what we really hope will happen is is to move to a phase where we know we have to live with this virus, ”says Dr Yvonne Maldonado, professor of pediatrics (infectious diseases) and epidemiology and population health at Stanford Medicine.

The four doctors interviewed told ABC7 News in San Francisco that they believe SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay, but expressed cautious optimism that we are turning a corner for the better.

“It has to end up becoming endemic at some point, so yeah, I guess it would be this year. I based that largely on what we’re seeing in other countries that are probably more vaccinated than us. bottom The line is if we are to control transmission we have to be vaccinated and stimulated, ”said UCSF epidemiologist Dr George Rutherford.

The four doctors indicate that vaccinations are the main way to achieve endemicity.

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“Out of 1.2 million people in a particular healthcare study who were fully immunized, only 36 people in that group died. And there were about 2,500 infections. So that was one. infection rate of about 0.2%. So if you are vaccinated, and you are potentially exposed to and become infected with omicron, your risk of serious illness, death, or other complications will be extremely low. , again, I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to get vaccinated because this is going to be our way out of this pandemic, ”said Dr Maldonado.

“I think there is a chance that we can get rid of the pandemic – which means big increases in hospitalizations and deaths, and maybe get to a point where we have circulation of the virus with less d “hospitalizations and deaths and maybe the same or more infections, but not leading to bad outcomes. And we’re going to have to learn to live with that with vaccinations. And we’re going to have to learn more to know if we can stop mask us at some point later this year. If the disease becomes less severe,” she says.

However, Dr Wachter says that while he can predict a drop in infections with some confidence for the spring and maybe the summer, he is not as confident to say the same for the fall and winter later this year. “Much depends on whether there is a new and worse variant.”

He says the degree of immunity to omicron infection alone is also still unknown. “For unvaccinated people, if their only immunity is against an infection, it all really depends on the quality of that immunity and how long it lasts. If it starts to decline and they are vulnerable again, then we could see another significant increase. But I am moderately optimistic, ”says Dr Wachter.

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