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How omicron could put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic

As the omicron variant sweeps Houston, is there a bright side? Does it mean more people will have immunity which could help put an end to the pandemic?

HOUSTON — Dr. Luis Ostrosky, an infectious disease specialist with UTHealth Houston/ Memorial Hermann, says the end to the pandemic could be in sight, however, it’s going to take a lot more work.

Currently, one in three Houstonians are testing positive for COVID. Although the omicron variant seems to be milder, that’s not the case for everyone.

“We should start by never ever minimizing the lethality of COVID-19,” Ostrosky said. “For people who are not vaccinated, it is just like the old COVID.”

This variant is also still straining Houston hospitals.

However, once we’re on the other side of this wave will we be in a better place?

“What some people are hoping happens,” Ostrosky said, “is that just a vast majority of people get it and it gets snuffed out. There is enough immunity for a while that we don’t see another variant emerge.”

Ostrosky said although that is a possibility, there’s more to it; explaining that herd immunity would only last a short time. He said we’d need to take advantage of that short-lived protection and get the unvaccinated vaccinated before another, more severe variant labeled a “variant of high consequence” emerges.

When it comes to omicron being the end game, Ostrosky said, “not unless we all work together and vaccinate the largest amount of population we can.”

There has yet to be a “variant of high consequence” in this pandemic yet. This kind of variant has to potential to be unresponsive to treatments, tests or vaccines and could cause more severe illness or have a higher mortality rate. Although viruses tend to become less lethal over time, that’s not a guarantee.

“I think omicron is kind of our final warning shot here,” Ostrosky said.

Scientists agree COVID isn’t going anywhere. However, with omicron, there’s the hope of knocking it to an endemic. Manageable with testing, PPE, anti-viral medications and most importantly a vaccine.

“And with those pieces in place, we can go back to what we all really want which is go back to normal,” Ostrosky said.

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