The omicron variant’s role in ending the COVID-19 pandemic remains unclear, even as some interpret the variant’s quick spread as a sign that the virus will soon be endemic.

The news: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House medical adviser on the coronavirus, said the omicron variant could impact the level of immunity for people in the United States.

  • But “it is an open question as to whether or not omicron is going to be the live virus vaccination that everyone is hoping for, because you have such a great deal of variability with new variants emerging,” Fauci said, per The New York Times.
  • “I would hope that that’s the case,” he said, “but that would only be the case if we don’t get another variant that eludes the immune response.”
  • “The answer is: We do not know.”
Opinion: Is this how the pandemic ends?
Will COVID-19 end soon? It will look different after omicron, Bill Gates says
Why the omicron variant might change how the pandemic ends

Why it matters: The omicron variant has changed how people perceive the pandemic endgame. Fauci’s comments suggest there’s still a lot of unknowns with the omicron variant, which will have to be explored before the pandemic ends.

Flashback: This reminds me of an article from The Sydney Morning Herald in November, which suggested that an infectious COVID-19 variant could spread far and fast, creating less severe COVID-19 symptoms but more immunity.

  • “The theory is that, if a less virulent strain becomes dominant, more people will become infected but fewer will be critically sick,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald. “The virus, while still a problem, also becomes part of the solution; every person who recovers from a mild case is left with greater immunity against future infections than any of the current vaccines provide.”

Bill Gates recently said in a Twitter Q&A that the omicron variant will change the end of the pandemic, too, creating a less severe sickness.

  • “As countries experience their Omicron wave health systems will be challenged. Most of the severe cases will be unvaccinated people. Once Omicron goes through a country then the rest of the year should see far fewer cases so Covid can be treated more like seasonal flu,” Gates said.