remain mild with the subvariants,” she says.
The wide spread in the U.S. of a relatively mild strain of the virus likely paid dividends by providing many Americans with some immunity, whether or not they had been vaccinated. Research shows that people who had been vaccinated and then were infected had even greater protection than people who had been vaccinated and not gotten COVID.
“This family of Omicron could indeed offer a bright side” in the course of the pandemic, Schaffner says.
Looking ahead, vaccine manufacturers are beginning to design vaccines that specifically target Omicron, and some would combine a coronavirus vaccine with a seasonal influenza vaccine in one shot. But these vaccines are in their early stages, and Schaffner says he suspects they won’t be ready and approved by this fall’s flu vaccination season.
Whether such new vaccines represent the next step in the fight against COVID will be up to the FDA and the CDC.
Q: Are any entirely new variants on the horizon?
Experts agreed that the only newcomers in recent weeks have been incremental subvariants — certainly nothing that seems as game changing as Delta or Omicron were when they first appeared.
“There’s nothing we know of that’s lurking yet, and the surveillance is pretty darn aggressive,” Schaffner shares.
There are estimates that more than 60% of the world’s population has been exposed to Omicron and over 65% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, Gandhi says, “so I am keeping my fingers crossed the development of new variants will slow with this degree of population immunity.”
Gandhi acknowledges some surprise at how quiet the horizon is right now, but she sees it as a positive development.
“We have now gone five months since hearing about a new variant, which I hope is reflective of increasing immunity in the world’s population,” she concludes.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.