Before we even discuss herd immunity, PCR stress tests, airline disruptions, and probable lockdowns interrupted New Year’s Eve celebrations because of the latest COVID-19 variant, omicron.
Over the holidays, a popular meme with the quip “The year 2022 is pronounced 2020 too” became an internet sensation, implying a return to the harsh limitations of two years ago.
The words turned out to be prophetic in a hurry. Due to an increase in the frequency of coronavirus infections caused by omicron, several countries have instituted partial or even complete lockdowns, while other countries have tightened restrictions on indoor meetings and travel.
More than 8,000 flights have been canceled around the world as a result, putting further strain on the commercial aviation industry. The start of the new year was marked by a slew of cancelled events, concerts, and get-togethers.
Herd Immunity as the Solution
Many people are beginning to question if herd immunity is the best solution in the face of the confusion caused by the newly dominant variety and reports of potentially more transmissible, vaccine-resistant strains arising in France, Israel, and Cyprus.
There are two ways to develop herd immunity if it exists. As Dr. Richard Kennedy, the co-director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic stated to Arab News in a statement, “widespread infection or vaccination” are the only two options.
Several governments are displaying a degree of tolerance for high rates of illness, maybe in the expectation of gaining herd immunity, in order to avoid further restrictions and delaying economic recovery. But, as the well-known saying goes, hope is not a plan.
It’s a “extremely poor concept” to rely on widespread infection, Kennedy added. “Infection causes symptoms, hospitalization, and death, as well as the development of new strains of the disease. ” When someone is infected, there is only one way for new variations to emerge.
This is simply not worth it in terms of the toll on human life, human pain, and societal disruption. Because herd immunity has a larger possibility of extending or worsening the pandemic based on the features of variations that will inevitably evolve.”
According to Kennedy, the virus will face increased pressure to mutate as more people gain protection to it, whether through infection or vaccination. However, there are no guarantees that future variations will be less harmful.
According to him, “this virus is a minuscule parasite that requires human cells to thrive and replicate.” There are no emotions or sensations in it.” Infected people don’t care whether they survive or die. “It does exactly what it was designed to do.”
Despite this, milder varieties have a selective advantage in becoming dominant. If a virus kills a patient rapidly, it may have a limited window of opportunity to spread to other people, putting its own life in jeopardy.
Omicron, on the other hand, is a slow-burner that “does an outstanding job” of spreading to new patients.
Mild Strains Still Pose a Threat to Herd Immunity
Governments, according to the experts, should not relax their stance on omicron. “Hospitalization and death” are still being caused by “mild” strains of the virus, according to the World Health Organization.
However, there appears to be an incentive for new varieties, such as omicron, to be more transmissible, even if the virus is not now under any special pressure to become more aggressive.
This was the largest daily total for any country in the globe, with 1.35 million new coronavirus infections reported on Monday. The record number of new cases was set on the same day that the country’s COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a record high.
It took only two days for daily instances to more than quadruple for Umrah pilgrims to Saudi Arabia in the first week of January, prompting authorities to demand mask wearing once again in public settings.
Since the beginning of December, the number of cases in the United Arab Emirates has continuously increased. In a population of 10 million, the number of daily positive cases now regularly exceeds 2,500, exerting stress on testing facilities and pushing more people to seek booster vaccinations.
Rising Cases towards Herd Immunity
In Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait, the number of daily COVID-19 cases has surpassed 1,000. At schools and universities in Qatar, remote learning has been restored while public events have been banned.
An assistant professor at the Jazan University College of Applied Medical Sciences in Saudi Arabia is optimistic that the Gulf Cooperation Council countries are prepared to deal with new coronavirus strains, despite the region’s recent outbreak of omicron infections.
As a result, he said, the GCC countries’ populations are less vulnerable to the virus’s more severe illnesses because they are all close to or have reached the 70 percent vaccination mark.
According to Algaissi, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) governments have “managed three waves of COVID-19 better than other regions and will do the same with omicron.”
In the GCC, the overall impact of omicron will be lesser than in other countries, but we can expect an increase in the number of cases and, eventually, a high number of deaths.
That the omicron wave will be brief and that the pandemic’s worst is over are Algaissi’s predictions.
According to his theory, “the disease will become less of a problem because fewer people will be vulnerable to it and we will have the tools to deal with it.”
All variants must be eliminated in order to expedite the transition from pandemic to epidemic, according to Algaissi, whose “universal COVID-19 vaccine” is currently in the testing phase.
If the virus continues to evolve as scientists expect it to, they may be able to develop an all-purpose vaccine comparable to the one used for the universal flu shot in the next several years, he added.
In the event that a new vaccine-resistant strain emerges from people with low vaccination rates, Algaissi does not rule out the possibility of a fifth wave. As for any future COVID-19 waves, he thinks they will be brief.
Herd Immunity: How Long Are We Fighting the Good Fight?
According to Mayo Clinic’s Kennedy, who is less optimistic about the future, it may take years for humanity to successfully combat the novel coronavirus and its various variants. In other words, it may take years to develop herd immunity against the novel coronavirus.
As a species, we had a brief window of opportunity to contain and eliminate this virus. If it hasn’t already, that window is soon closing. SARS-CoV-2, as the novel coronavirus is known scientifically, must now be accepted as a fact of life.
While the future is still uncertain, Kennedy expects progress through new vaccinations and antivirals, variant-specific vaccines and better treatment options, but also expects big setbacks to happen.
Since people are naturally inconsistent and inconsistent, most countries’ responses have been inconsistent as well. These control efforts have become less effective as a result of this.”
There will still be issues for countries with high vaccination rates and low vaccination rates in the vicinity of each other when international travel resumes. It is for this reason that vaccination delivery in the underdeveloped countries is so critical.
A global response was called for because the problem was of a global scale, according to Kennedy. The term “herd immunity,’ as used here, must be interpreted to indicate worldwide herd immunity. “The pandemic cannot be ended without doing just that.”
“However,” in his view, many people will continue to “reject logic, facts, and common sense” in the face of this challenge.
On the other hand, he cautioned, “We will see various countries cobbling together a unique pandemic reaction that is based in part on facts and research and in part on emotion and public perception.”