In endemic state, every Filipino will eventually get Omicron, says OCTA fellow
MANILA, Philippines — In an endemic state of COVID-19, every Filipino will eventually get the Omicron variant of COVID-19 when immunity has waned, a molecular biologist from independent analytics group OCTA Research said Thursday.
According to OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, COVID-19 and its Omicron variant will stay and everyone will get the virus at some point.
“So what will it look like in terms of endemic COVID-19? I point out that every Filipino will eventually get Omicron COVID-19 when their natural or vaccine-acquired immunity wanes,” he said in an online Go Negosyo forum.
“You will get COVID-19 either tomorrow, next month, next year, five years from now, 10 years from now. Omicron is going to stay, COVID-19 is going to stay, and so we are basically going to get COVID-19 at some point,” he added.
According to Austriaco, COVID-19 will then be mild for most people, except for the immunocompromised.
“What is important is that unlike with Delta, COVID-19 will be mild for most but it will still cause hospitalizations and deaths for vulnerable patients, which is why I think the conversation in the world with regards to booster shots is basically that we are going to have to focus our vaccination efforts in the future for booster shots on vulnerable people only but not for most citizens,” he pointed out.
“If you are vaccinated and you do not have comorbidities, you will be fine. If you have comorbidities or if you are elderly, you will need regular vaccination but this is something that we already do with the flu,” said Austriaco.
He added that antiviral drugs and other therapies will also mitigate hospitalizations and death.
Austriaco noted that in moving toward an endemic approach, daily cases may still increase when the country relaxes restrictions but should later stabilize depending on the level of “hybrid immunity,” or the combined immunity acquired through immunization and infection.
However, he said that COVID-19 cases are not expected to overwhelm the healthcare system, especially in Metro Manila.
The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines an endemic as the “constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area.”
Currently, COVID-19 is categorized as a pandemic, which the CDC defines as “an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.”
The Department of Health has yet to comment on Austriaco’s remarks, but last month, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Technical Lead on COVID-19, said that while Omicron is overtaking Delta, it does not mean that everyone will eventually get Omicron.
“We are certainly seeing with Omicron that there is a significant growth advantage compared to other variants of concern. Omicron is overtaking Delta in terms of circulation and it is very efficiently transmitted between people,” she said in a video posted by WHO on Twitter on January 23.
“It does not mean that everybody will eventually get Omicron but we certainly are seeing high cases and surges of cases around the world,” she added.
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