Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.
Why it matters: The warnings come as there’s no guarantee that subsequent variants “will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them,” underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.
- The chance of the virus mutating increases with every infection, raising concerns as the highly contagious Omicron variant rapidly spreads, per AP.
Between the lines: It’s not clear what subsequent variants might look like or how they may impact the pandemic, experts caution.
What they’re saying: “The faster omicron spreads, the more opportunities there are for mutation, potentially leading to more variants,” Leonardo Martinez, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Boston University, told AP.
- “It’s the longer, persistent infections that seem to be the most likely breeding grounds for new variants,” Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said, per AP.
- “It’s only when you have very widespread infection that you’re going to provide the opportunity for that to occur.”
The big picture: Preliminary research suggests that the highly contagious Omicron variant is more resistant to prior coronavirus infection than with other variants, Axios’ Caitlin Owens reports.
- Initial studies also have found that coronavirus vaccines — particularly without a booster shot — are less effective against Omicron infections than other variants, although they appear to hold up well against severe disease.
- The World Health Organization reported nearly 20 million new COVID-19 cases over the last seven days.