Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, warned Monday that Covid can mutate once again, and the rampant spread of Omicron open the door for another – even more infectious – variant to eventually arise.
Every time the virus jumps from one host to another, it begins to replicate in the person’s body. The more replication that occurs, the most opportunities arise for the virus to mutate.
Ghebreyesus warns that, although Omicron has proved to be more mild than other strains of the virus.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (pictured), Director-General of the WHO, warned Monday that vaccines alone will not transition Covid from pandemic to endemic, and health leaders and pharmaceutical companies should also invest in therapeutics
‘It is dangerous to assume that omicron will be the last variant or that we’re in the endgame,’ Ghebreyesus said.
‘On the contrary, globally the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge. To change the course of the pandemic, we must change the conditions that are driving it.’
He also noted that it has been near impossible to predict the course of the pandemic so far – many thought Delta would potentially be its final stand – so it is hard to believe that current predictions will hold.
Ghebreyesus also warned that it is impossible to vaccinate to end the pandemic. He is also calling for pharmaceutical companies and governments around the world to better distribute therapeutics and other potentially life saving resources.
‘Vaccines alone will not end the pandemic,’ he said.
‘Many countries need diagnostics, lifesaving therapeutics — including oxygen and support for vaccine rollout.’
More and more effective Covid treatments are becoming available, and there has been an effort to distribute them to developed nations along with their wealthier peers.
Merck’s molnupiravir was the first antiviral Covid pill to earn headlines, after early studies showed it could significantly cut down a person’s risk of hospitalization or death from the virus if taken upon infection.
The drug recently received authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S., along with other regulators around the world.
The Kenilworth, New Jersey, based company has also partnered with a United Nations health group, the Medicines Patent Pool, to mass produce the drug at little cost and distribute it around the world.
Pfizer’s Paxlovid is considered to be the gold standard for antiviral Covid pills, and similar to molnupiravir, the drug is also a drug a person can take at home upon infection that will help stop the development of serious symptoms.
The drug is believed to be more effective than molnupiravir, and Pfizer has also partnered with the Medicines Patent Pool to distribute the drug abroad.
Supply issues have made getting hands of the drug hard for some, though Pfizer has moved to increase production in recent weeks.
Despite his grim warning, Ghebreyesus is still hopeful that the COVID-19 pandemic can end this year.
‘If countries use all of [the] strategies and tools in a comprehensive way, we can end the acute phase of the pandemic this year — we can end COVID-19 as a global health emergency, and we can do it this year,’ he said.
Many health experts are starting to say that Covid could reach an endemic phase by the end of t2022.
Last week, former FDA Chief Dr Scott Gottlieb said that the recent spread of Omicron, combined with a sharp decline of cases being seen across the east coast, means the next phase of the virus’s life is around the corner.
’I think the base case is that this signals the end of the pandemic phase of this virus,’ Gottlieb said on CNBC’s The Squawk Box last week.
If the virus becomes endemic, then life will still be able to exist around it. While it will still infect people, with regular Covid shots it can be limited and deaths will be minimal – similar to how people live with the flu.