|Year : 2021 | Volume
| Issue : 4 | Page : 221-222
Alpha, delta and now Omicron: When will the COVID-19 pandemic end?
Kundavaram Paul Prabhakar Abhilash
Department of Emergency Medicine, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India
|Date of Submission||28-Oct-2021|
|Date of Decision||30-Oct-2021|
|Date of Acceptance||30-Oct-2021|
|Date of Web Publication||07-Dec-2021|
Dr. Kundavaram Paul Prabhakar Abhilash
Department of Emergency Medicine, Christian Medical College, Vellore - 632 004, Tamil Nadu
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Abhilash KP. Alpha, delta and now Omicron: When will the COVID-19 pandemic end?. Curr Med Issues 2021;19:221-2
December 2021 marks 2 years of COVID-19, 2 years of unexpected unprecedented times in the history of medicine and of the world. Never before had we encountered a pandemic of such epic proportion. Never before had life in every single country without exception been derailed. We now live in a world where the phrase “;talking face to face” is aptly replaced by “;talking mask to mask.” Such has been the impact of COVID-19 and its partner in crime, the global lockdown. With the threat of the newly discovered Omicron variant (B1.1.529) looming large, the question on everybody's mind is, when will the pandemic end? The highly mutated Omicron variant that was first identified in Botswana and South Africa on November 11, 2021, has already forayed into many countries in Africa, Europe and Asia. India reported its first case in Bengaluru on December 2, 2021.
Unfortunately, the future is full of uncertainty for a number of reasons. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) proved to be a formidable foe to humans by its ability to mutate and wreak havoc on a global scale. The number of variants that emerged in a short span of 2 years was so many that they had to be named after Greek alphabets. The early alpha strain was soon dwarfed by the more dangerous delta variant, and with the Omicron variant threatening a third wave in India, the future remains gloomy. The rapid development of vaccines in a record time has been the most potent weapon in our armament in the Aegean task of containing the contagion. However, the target of herd immunity has not yet been achieved due to three main reasons. One, need–supply mismatch, which is a realist challenge to supply vaccines to every developed, developing, and the underdeveloped countries of the world before more variants and waves emerge. Second, despite assurances and campaigning by health experts and epidemiologists, the problem of vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaxxers that is widely prevalent from the heads of states to role models such as sports and entertainment legends to the uneducated common human has been a major thorn in the efforts to contain and mitigate the disease. As of December 2021, the percentage of fully vaccinated individuals in the major countries is as follows: United Arab Emirates (87%), Portugal (86%), Spain (78.7%), Canada (73.9%), Italy (72%), Japan (70.6%), United Kingdom (67.8%), Germany (66.2%), Israel (62.1%), United States of America (57.9%), and Brazil (54.7%). India, with 448 million fully vaccinated population, remains far behind in the vaccination rate (32.5%). The third reason is waning of immunity as seen in many seroprevalence studies., This has prompted many countries to start offering booster doses to high-risk populations. These events and findings have raised new questions about when the pandemic will end.
After 2 years, many countries that weathered the alpha and delta waves in 2-4 waves are attempting to resume the transition toward normalcy. At the moment, achievement of herd immunity may be the main target, but the more realistic epidemiological end point may be the time when COVID-19 can be managed as an endemic disease. This assumption is based on the fact that, out of the thousands of micro- and macro-organisms that infect millions of humans every day and despite major advances in modern medicine, we successfully managed to eradicate only one infection; small pox. Every other organism has remained endemic in some place or the other for centuries. And so too will SARS-CoV-2. Like all other pathogens, it is likely to retire from active duty but reside forever on planet Earth, simmering on and causing occasional flare ups and waves is one or more countries.
The last 2 years has been tough and enduring, but lives march on. Vaccines certainly mitigate the disease, including the existing variants, while therapy remains focused on supportive care with no silver bullet in sight. The biggest danger moving forward would be the regular emergence of highly mutated variants like the Omicron, that may cause a new pan global wave. Whether deadlier variants emerge or not, the bottom line is, SARS-CoV-2 with its extended and expanding family is here to stay. The onus is on us to adapt to our new neighbor for life.
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