Published in El Pais, 9 February 2022.
While the number of infections caused by the Ómicron variant seem to be declining in some countries, we again wonder if this is the end of COVID-19. We have been vaccinated and still many have been infected again. One may think that it is no longer possible to become infected again. Unfortunately, reality shows us something different. There are a large number of people who have been reinfected with symptoms. Maybe we will never get rid of COVID-19 but what is improving is that every time the number of people who die or who have to go to a hospital is going reducing. The question is whether this trend continues and that at some point we may live with the virus as something ‘normal’.
What causes a lot of uncertainty is that the virus is mutating all the time. A mutation can occur every time a virus is replicating. Most don’t have interesting mutations, but in some cases they do. For example, the Ómicron was quite different compared to the Delta in that it spreads much faster and achieves large numbers of infections. So far, the advantage is that vaccines and previous infections give protection against new variants. However, we cannot be sure that they will continue to protect us if new variants continue to appear.
Right now there is an aspect that we have to be aware of. Vaccines lose their effectiveness over time and against new variants of the virus. They now recommend getting vaccinated again after 6 months of your last vaccination. A booster that many countries have already done or are applying to protect against Omicron. Personas who are not vaccinated again are already more likely to get sick or die. Also if you have been infected with COVID-19 your immunity is not eternal, on the contrary, reinfections are being seen after 2 months with Ómicron. The cause is loss of immunity or by the new features of new variants of the virus.
What exactly is going to happen we don’t know. New variants are going to appear. But also new vaccines and better treatments are going to be available. We are better prepared every day, and so are our own bodies. However, we have to be aware that this is not over, and we must maintain the physical distance of people and hygiene to avoid getting infected.