The end of COVID with Omicron? A hope to be taken with a grain of salt

The end of COVID with Omicron? A hope - take it with a grain of salt

MISE & Agrave; DAY

Could the Omicron tidal wave sign the end of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing the planet with a large share of collective immunity? Some hope so, but great caution remains in order as the future scenarios remain unpredictable. & nbsp;

“This fifth wave may be the last.” Is the optimism displayed this weekend by Olivier Véran really justified? For the French Minister of Health, the new variant, which is becoming the majority in many countries, is so contagious that it “will lead to enhanced immunity” in the world: “We will all be more armed after its passage”.

Repeating his remarks on France Inter on Monday, the minister was also cautious: “Everything is in the + maybe +”, he insisted.

This rather optimistic scenario seems to be shared by a number of experts, however. With a new variant which is “a little more transmissible (than its predecessors, editor's note), but less aggressive, perhaps we are witnessing the beginning of an evolution towards a more banal virus like we know others”, thus launched Monday on BFMTV Alain Fischer, the “Monsieur vaccine” of the French government.

In other words, a more contagious, but less dangerous virus would make it possible to acquire a natural immunity which, combined with vaccine immunity, would mark the entry into a less severe stage of the pandemic.

“Ultimately, there is hope “and” Sars-CoV-2 will join the other human seasonal coronaviruses which give us colds and tonsillitis every winter “, also advanced this weekend the epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet.

“We're not there yet. We can expect that new variants will emerge, but, as our immunity strengthens over time, either by natural infection or with booster doses of the vaccine, their capacity to give severe forms will decrease ”, a- he predicts.

But before getting there, the price to pay could be “a high number of infections among the population”, as the director of the ministry for the Israeli Health, Nachman Ash, speaking about his country. & Nbsp;

New variant?

Even with a milder virus, the consequences could be serious on a collective level, the number of cases potentially automatically leading to an increase in the number of hospitalized patients.

Moreover, no one knows when this collective immunity hoped-for could materialize. & nbsp;

“I still have hope that the virus will end up being more like other cold coronaviruses – maybe within the next one or two years – by repeating the vaccines and keeping the mask and social distancing for the most vulnerable.” , like what we do for the flu every year, “said Julian Tang, virologist and professor at the University of Leicester, recently as quoted by the British organization Science Media center.

After two years of COVID-19, different variants and developments that have often thwarted all predictions, some now refuse to speculate.

“If we want to start learning the lessons of the recent past of this pandemic , let us remember that it is largely unpredictable, ”emphasizes epidemiologist Antoine Flahault to AFP.

According to him, the concept of collective immunity is “purely theoretical”. “It seems that vaccine immunity protects effectively against severe forms of the disease, but not all vaccinated either”, he develops.

In addition, “naturally acquired immunity, by a history of infection by the coronavirus, also seems to provide a form of protection, in particular against the serious forms, but none of this is completely clear “, adds Professor Flahault.

For the director of the Institute for Global Health in Geneva, all the scenarios therefore remain on the table today: from the most optimistic, mentioned in particular by Olivier Véran, to the most pessimistic, involving for example great difficulty in passing the peak of 'Omicron, the saturation of health systems or the emergence of a new variant.

“I am convinced that this will not be the last wave”, for his part estimated Sunday Professor Eric Caumes, former head of the infectious diseases department at La Pitié Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. “But it may be the last of this intensity.” Maybe.

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