Scientists caution that post-omicron variants could be inevitable, according to the AP.
The problem: The faster a virus spreads, and the more people it infects, the more opportunities it has to mutate and produce additional variants. Because omicron is at least twice as contagious as the delta variant and at least four times as contagious as the original version of the virus, it has spread more quickly and more prolifically than its predecessors, creating more chances for additional mutations.
Good news/bad news: So far, the omicron variant appears to produce symptoms that are less severe than previous forms of the virus, and it’s possible that COVID-19 could eventually evolve in a milder direction. However, symptoms may not necessarily be less severe for additional variants, and it’s entirely possible that, if the virus mutates further, it could become more dangerous or more able to evade immunity. As variants proliferate, double infections with multiple variants could also be possible.
What you can do: Experts recommend masking in public indoor spaces to reduce the spread of the virus. They also urge vaccinations, emphasizing that higher global rates of vaccination could significantly reduce COVID-19’s dangerous impact. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that he would like to see 70% of people in every country vaccinated by the middle of this year—a target that is still a long way away for dozens of countries.
How we can help: Check out This Is Our Shot—a collaboration between the NAM and the MI—to learn how getting vaccinated can protect you and the people you care about.
In related news: The omicron variant’s less severe symptoms are presenting an opportunity for the global economy to push past challenges caused by COVID-19, according to Reuters (subscription).