Dr. Fauci Says This Is Now the "Best Case Scenario" for Ending COVID
The infectious disease expert has just given new thoughts on the pandemic.
In just about two months, the Omicron variant has taken over much of the world, including the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this version of the virus has spread so quickly that it is now estimated to account for 99.9 percent of new cases in the country. And even though infection rates are now falling, a new complication has emerged: an Omicron subvariant, BA.2.
This mutation appears to have the same severity as the original version of this variant but is harder to identify and already replacing the original in several countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Other virus experts are also warning that the subvariant might create yet another new surge of infections. So what is the path out of the pandemic now with Omicron and its new subvariant? Read on to find out what one of the nation's top infectious disease experts just said is the "best case scenario" for the end of COVID.
Dr. Fauci just laid out the current "best case scenario" for the end of the COVID pandemic.
Virus experts have been giving their thoughts on the end of the pandemic since it first started in 2020. But as situations and factors have changed over time, some of those early expectations are no longer applicable. During a White House press briefing on Feb. 2, top COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, said that the "best case scenario" to the end of the pandemic now is to have a level of community protection through immunity that is high enough to prevent the coronavirus from dominating our lives.
"In other words, it will be similar to the assimilation of this virus, in the group of viruses that we have learned to live with, without disruption of our society," he explained, adding that it would hopefully be similar to other respiratory viruses and parainfluenzas. "You know … the influenzas where it's there, it's present, it hasn't been eradicated, it hasn't been eliminated, but it isn't at a level that it essentially dominates what we do and dramatically influences our lives," Fauci said.
He said he believes the country is going in the right direction for this.
According to Fauci, he and his colleagues believe that the U.S. is "now going in the right direction" to bring the volatility of COVID to a halt. So in terms of reaching the "best case scenario" for the end of the COVID pandemic, Fauci said he hopes "that it's sooner rather than later," especially given the tools we now have to fight the virus. This includes vaccinations, boosting, testing, masking, and the mitigations, per the infectious disease expert.
"We believe we will get there," Fauci said during the press briefing.
But experts cannot guarantee that there won't be more COVID variants.
As much as many of us would love for Omicron to be the last iteration of the virus that pops up, virus experts have said they cannot assure this yet. After all, we're already seeing a mutated version of this variant arise. Stuart Ray, MD, Johns Hopkins' vice chair of medicine for data integrity and analytics, told Hopkins Medicine that this is because as long as the coronavirus spreads through the population, mutations can and will continue to occur.
"New variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are detected every week," Ray said. "Most come and go—some persist but don't become more common; some increase in the population for a while, and then fizzle out. When a change in the infection pattern first pops up, it can be very hard to tell what's driving the trend—changes to the virus, or changes in human behavior. It is worrisome that similar changes to the spike protein are arising independently on multiple continents."
And there isn't any certainty that new versions of COVID will not be as troublesome as Omicron, or even more so. "We can't guarantee that there will not be another variant that challenges us," Fauci confirmed. "But the best that we can do with that is to be prepared for it."
Fauci said new vaccines are being developed to help bring COVID down to a manageable level.
The infectious disease expert said that one of the ways that the country is working to push towards the end of the pandemic, as well as better prepare for potential new variants, is by enhancing COVID vaccines. For example, both Moderna and Pfizer are in the middle of conducting clinical trials for vaccines designed specifically to combat the Omicron variant, according to CNBC.
"That's why we're doing all the things that we're doing with regard to getting better, more advanced vaccine," Fauci said during the press briefing. "Different platforms, different immunogen designs, development and discovery of new drugs—all of that will be part of the armamentarium that will ultimately, even with the appearance of additional variants, will get us to the point where we will not be dominated by this virus; where we can return to a degree of normality that we all crave for."
Currently, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is also providing about $43 million in funds for various projects to develop "pan-coronavirus" vaccines that are intended to protect against more than one type, according to ABC News. But Fauci, NIH's infectious disease director, said that this kind of development is likely still years away. "I don't want anyone to think that pan-coronavirus vaccines are literally around the corner," he told ABC News.