United States is among the countries with the highest Covid-19 vaccination rates so far, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are getting closer to the end of the pandemic. After months of solid vaccination process and relatively good, stable numbers of new Covid-19 cases, health experts are concerned again mostly because of the highly transmissible recently discovered Omicron variant that might completely change the path of the pandemic.
Although not much is known for the new variant since Omicron studies are in their early stages, it is confirmed that Omicron has the ability to easily evade both natural and vaccine immunity because the variant has more than 30 mutations. This means that Omicron has extreme level of contagiousness and will probably infect people with the virus several times faster compared to the Delta variant.
Since few days ago, Omicron officially became the dominant coronavirus variant in the US, accounting for roughly three-quarters of COVID-19 cases for the week Dec. 11-18. The Covid-19 omicron variant has now been detected in all 50 states, just three weeks after the first case of the new strain was discovered the U.S., with many states now reporting more new daily cases than any time during the pandemic.
Understandably, both health experts and Americans are concerned how Omicron will change the pandemic especially taking into consideration the fact that we have the holidays ahead of us. Dr. Fauci in several occasions urged Americans to get the booster dose and build better immunity to avoid getting infected with Omicron, but he and some other leading health experts believe that we are going to see more and more breakthrough cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated people — and that’s fine.
According to Dr. Vin Gupta from the University of Washington, “the cases are going to rise” in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, but those with their shots are going to be protected against severe illness.
“We have to get comfortable with fully vaccinated folks testing positive, that’s going to be our new normal,” Gupta told the Today show hosts. “But people should not worry about that because the purpose of vaccines is not to prevent a positive test or a respiratory virus like omicron, it’s to keep you out of the hospital, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.”
Gupta additionally explained that vaccines against respiratory viruses like COVID-19 or the flu, will never fully prevent infections, but the vaccines will prevent severe illness which will additionally prevent hospitalizations and deaths in most of the cases.
“With respiratory viruses, we can’t ever prevent a positive test or mild symptoms,” he said. “They’re totally okay and that’s what we expect. The vaccines are doing exactly what they should be for respiratory viruses; they’re keeping people out of the hospital and that’s a success.”
Gupta joined the group of doctors advising people to get vaccinated as soon as possible. While he advises the fully vaccinated to get their booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, he especially urged the vaccine hesitant to get the shot as soon as possible saying that the next few months might be pretty tough for them with the Omicron variant in place.
“Myself and colleagues at hospitals across the country, we’re expecting, frankly, 10,000 weekly deaths, week over week, well into the beginning of March,” he said. “So this is going to be a very difficult three to four months ahead.”
Gupta agrees with CDC prediction of new, winter Covid-19 wave in January when Covid-19 number of cases is predicted to literally explode as a result of the more frequent indoor gatherings in the days during the holiday period.