Covid’s omicron variant is currently tearing through the U.S. and the rest of the world at a record-breaking pace — but Bill Gates sees hope on the horizon.
Once the current surge abates, countries can expect to see “far fewer cases” through the rest of 2022, Gates wrote on Tuesday during a Twitter Q&A with Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. Once that happens, Gates continued, Covid can most likely “be treated more like seasonal flu.”
The Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist — an outspoken public health advocate who regularly weighs in on the Covid pandemic response — isn’t the first to make similar predictions. Some experts say omicron’s rapid spread, while certainly dangerous, could imbue enough people with so-called “natural immunity” to help steer the Covid pandemic into a much less severe “endemic” phase.
Gates touched on that scenario in his Twitter Q&A, predicting that “omicron will create a lot of immunity, at least for the next year.” The timing matters: If enough of the country can maintain some level of simultaneous immunity against Covid, whether vaccine-induced or otherwise, the virus’ circulation could slow down long enough to transition the pandemic into that endemic phase.
Once Covid eventually becomes endemic, Gates added, “we may have to take yearly shots for Covid for some time” — much like annual flu shots.
The U.S. reported a record 1.5 million new Covid cases on Monday, while also posting a new record for hospitalizations. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical advisor, has projected that the current wave of omicron cases will peak in the U.S. by the end of January. And last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it expects a “precipitous decline” in cases once omicron passes.