Israeli immunologist: omicron might be 'light at end of tunnel'

i24NEWS

3 min read
A staff member (R) wearing protective equipment guides a traveler at the arrival hall of Incheon International Airport on November 30, 2021, amid growing concerns about the omicron Covid-19 variant.
Jung Yeon-je / AFPA staff member (R) wearing protective equipment guides a traveler at the arrival hall of Incheon International Airport on November 30, 2021, amid growing concerns about the omicron Covid-19 variant.

Hebrew U professor says highly infectious but less aggressive variant could signal end of pandemic

The omicron variant could be a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, an Israeli immunologist told i24NEWS on Tuesday.

"In my view maybe this new variant is the light at the end of the tunnel," Hebrew University Prof. Zvika Granot said. "This is a variant that is highly infectious but maybe not as aggressive."

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Granot cited the data coming from South Africa where the mutated version of Covid-19 was first detected with health authorities there reporting that many people were infected but the symptoms were mild.

Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, is the doctor who first alerted officials of the new strain. On Sunday, she said that dozens of her patients suspected of having the new variant only showed mild symptoms and recovered fully without hospitalization.

Granot said that the virus will likely be with us for many years with new variants circulating, but not at the level of a pandemic.

"As the coronavirus evolves it will be less and less aggressive," the professor said.

Moderna’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, warned on Monday that the pharmaceutical company’s Covid vaccine may be less effective against the omicron variant.

However, Granot cautioned against coming to conclusions at this point as to the effectiveness of existing inoculations, saying that more testing is necessary.

"When you look at the future and try to envision how this will end one day, it's most likely not going to be because we got a fantastic vaccine. It just doesn't work this way and we have a lot of experience with viruses like the flu," Granot remarked.

"The way that it will end, in my view, is when we encounter this new variant that is highly infectious but is not very aggressive, meaning that a lot of people will get infected but none of them will develop serious symptoms. And in a sense that will be the way the population will really gain herd immunity and then the coronavirus will just fade away."