Covid’s omicron variant is currently tearing through the U.S. and the rest of the world at a record-breaking pace — but Bill Gates sees hope on the horizon.
Gates touched on that scenario in his Twitter Q&A, predicting that “omicron will create a lot of immunity, at least for the next year.” The timing matters: If enough of the country can maintain some level of simultaneous immunity against Covid, whether vaccine-induced or otherwise, the virus’ circulation could slow down long enough to transition the pandemic into that endemic phase.
Once Covid eventually becomes endemic, Gates added, “we may have to take yearly shots for Covid for some time” — much like annual flu shots.
The U.S. reported a record 1.5 million new Covid cases on Monday, while also posting a new record for hospitalizations. But Dr Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical advisor, has projected that the current wave of omicron cases will peak in the U.S. by the end of January. And last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it expects a “precipitous decline” in cases once omicron pas/
Omicron is still likely to wreak havoc on the U.S. health care system between now and then. In his online conversation with Sridhar, Gates noted that until omicron recedes, unvaccinated people will continue to experience “the most severe cases” of Covid. He also predicted that health systems across the world will continue to be “challenged” by omicron’s extremely high transmissibility.
Gates’ relatively optimistic outlook could also be dashed by a new Covid variant emerging on omicron’s heels, especially if it’s more severe or transmissible than any other variant to date. The billionaire wrote that the scenario is perhaps improbable — but certainly not impossible.
“A more transmissive variant is not likely,” Gates said on Twitter, “but we have been surprised a lot during this pandemic.”