4 News Now Q&A: Could the omicron variant get us out of the pandemic?

Your Questions Answered

Q: Could the omicron variant get us out of the pandemic? 

Two years ago, the first case of COVID was found in the United States. Since then, our lives have changed dramatically at school, at work and at home. But with data showing omicron peaking in some states, many people are hopeful this could be the beginning of the end. 

A: A “pandemic” refers to a global outbreak that causes unpredictable waves of illness. An “endemic” is something that is at a level “usually present in a community.”

The key difference in an endemic infection is that the virus is more manageable with greater population immunity, just like the flu or the common cold.

4 News Now asked ABC News Medical Contributor Dr. Darien Sutton what it would take to get us from pandemic to endemic. He said at this point, there are more questions than there are answers.

“A question that we still are asking is does an infection with the omicron variant confer or produce protection against future variants,” Dr. Sutton said. “Of course, we don’t know that yet. And then, what is the possibility of a new variant that we might come up against in the future? That is not yet to be understood.”

While no crystal ball can provide an exact timeline, Dr. Sutton said the history of infectious diseases can tell us something about the next stages of the pandemic.

“What we do know is that in order to get out of these pandemics and these active surges, in the history of pathogens, when you look at smallpox, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, none of these pathogens were eradicated or gotten rid of without the assistance of a vaccine. So that just shows that’s the safest path to get there,” Dr. Sutton said.

The latest data from the CDC show 67 percent of people in the U.S. 5 years and older are fully vaccinated. A little less that 80 percent have received at least one dose.

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