Saturday, January 22

4 uncertainties that we still have about Covid-19 almost 2 years after its appearance

The Covid-19 pandemic put us in January 2020 on a roller coaster of fear, hope, despair and euphoria from which we have not yet gotten off.

There are times when we all think that the pandemic is a thing of the past, and others when it seems that we start over from scratch.

The latest scare has been given to us by the new omicron variant.

Maybe recap and list uncertainties that we still have regarding the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its elimination will help us face the months to come.

There they go 4 of them:

Omicron variant chart

1. Will the virus become endemic?

Well, we are beginning to think not.

First, because of what history teaches us.

The two similar pandemics The one we have suffered (smallpox and poliomyelitis) was only able to be stopped by means of containment measures and massive vaccination, and it took many years.

In the case of smallpox was several centuries, and led to the invention of vaccines.

AND polio, first described in 1840, not eradicated yet, since cases are still reported in two countries of the world.

With what is on the way to the 2 centuries.

Smallpox eradication was made possible by a very effective smallpox vaccine. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

Neither of these two viruses has become endemic: they have had to be eradicated and it has taken a long time.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the same can happen with SARS-CoV-2.

Second, it is not a harmless virus like a cold.

SARS-CoV-2 infection is a respiratory syndrome, initially flu-like (and in many cases it is).

But now we know that you can also leave sequelae that remain for months.

Later we will know exactly how much and to what extent, but many people are suffering from consequences of infection.

Furthermore, if we disaggregate the total data for those affected by persistent Covid, the balance tips towards women.

Empty airport
Many countries have already closed their borders due to fears. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

2. Should we let it circulate as it pleases?

Months ago, some considered that possibility, but the evidence shows that it was not a good idea.

Not until we know more about the aftermath.

US children are especially concerned, who have their whole lives ahead of them and could suffer them chronically.

The situation in Spain is better compared to other countries in our environment thanks to the great acceptance of vaccines and the maintenance of measures such as masks indoors.

But the increase in cases in recent weeks indicates that the trend of some European countries to rescue measures that had been abandoned will reach us.

Just look at how quickly flights to South Africa have been canceled throughout Europe when a new variant of concern appears.

A woman buys masks at a market stall
Masks will continue to be part of our life. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

And we must not forget that the new variant has appeared in a country with low levels of vaccination where the virus basically roams at will.

3. What’s up? Vaccines not working?

They do work, but we don’t have sterilizing vaccines yet (i.e. that prevent transmission).

In addition, our immune system, with current vaccines, is not an armored wall.

It almost is when we have just been vaccinated, but when a time passes and the antibodies in the blood decrease, we can get infected and the virus splits in our mucous membranes.

It takes a while for the immune response to unfold, and during that time we can pass it on.


To a lesser extent than the unvaccinated, but we transmit it.

We won’t end up in the hospital or die, but during the time that passes until we get rid of the virus, we can infect.

Published preclinical and clinical studies of vaccines confirm that viruses replicate in vaccinated people. That is, they do not eliminate the transmission of the virus.

Does that happen with all vaccines?

With those that have come before and are approved, yes.

They reduce it a lot, but the protection they give us does not eliminate the virus completely.

They protect us from serious illness, as shown, fortunately, by the marked decrease in deaths, but they are not complete.

It is a very important factor that, for the moment, allows the virus to move freely, reproduce and evolve towards more contagious variants, as has happened until now.

A person getting vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The good news is that vaccine research continues.

And these first-generation vaccines will be followed by others that, in addition to adapting to new variants or being more complete in recognizing the virus, will manage to break it down and eliminate it.

Probably dWe will be revaccinated until they arrive, so that the defenses do not decrease. And, when they arrive, to eradicate the disease.

Some of these vaccines they will be administered nasally or orally, developing defenses in the upper respiratory tract to tackle the problem from minute one of contagion.

Christmas lighting.

4. What is going to happen?

We will continue to have waves.

Less lethal, but the virus will continue to prey on the vulnerable (for not being vaccinated or for not having an adequate immune response).

And it will continue to spread until we are all immunized with a sterilizing vaccine.

We think that the virus is not going to become endemic, but that we will have to crush it in several ways, as we did with smallpox and polio.

Unless a variant arises that produces very mild disease (cold type), without sequelae, very transmissible and that displaces all the others.

Other coronaviruses have.

In that case, the virus would be installed coexisting among us and producing one more cold than those that already circulate.

From what we know so far, the new variant ómicron could be of this type.

If it is, great.

If not, nothing happens: we will continue to adjust our uncertainties.

This is how you work in science.

* Matilde Cañelles López is a Scientific Researcher at the Institute of Philosophy (IFS-CSIC).

* María Mercedes Jiménez Sarmiento is a scientist at the CSIC. Systems Biochemistry of the bacterial division and scientific communicator of the Margarita Salas Biological Research Center (CIB – CSIC).

Your original article was published in The Conversation.

It may interest you:

* Omicron: What is known and what is NOT known about this new variant of COVID
* Authorities in the US admit that it will be weeks before knowing the real impact of the omicron variant of the coronavirus
* “Vaccine”, chosen word of the year in the USA according to Merriam-Webster dictionary

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