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‘More Infectious Than Omicron, Deadly Like Delta': UCSD Doc on Possibilities For Future COVID Variants

NBC San Diego logo NBC San Diego 1/22/2022 Madison Weil
Digital generated image of different variants of COVID-19 cells against gray background. Omicron Civid variant concept. © Getty Images

Digital generated image of different variants of COVID-19 cells against gray background. Omicron Civid variant concept.

For San Diegans exhausted from the omicron variant, scientists say, unfortunately, more variants are likely on the way. 

“I think we kind of expect it at this point … to keep seeing new variants that affect us differently too,” said George Medina, a bartender at Bolt Brewery in downtown San Diego. 

Like many others, Medina shared with NBC 7 that omicron has caused staffing shortages at his work. 

“I actually did get COVID-19 not too long ago ... it was really mild. It was fever headache and that’s it,” he said. 

But doctors say the worry is that new variants won't be as mild as omicron, and potentially more contagious.

“Maybe the variant that comes afterward, Pi, might actually be as infectious or more infectious than omicron and yet deadly like delta,” said Dr. Davey Smith, Head of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at UCSD. “It is very likely that we’re going to need shots and boosters over our lifetime and that the virus is not going away.”

Smith says it’s possible we’ll treat COVID more like the flu – creating new versions of the vaccine each year to keep up our immunity.  

He says vaccines are critical when it comes to slowing the evolution of COVID: “It shortens the amount of time the virus has to live in me, cause damage, and to be transmitted to someone else.”

Smith says he expects to be treating patients for COVID throughout his career, but predicts the strategy and formula of vaccines could change. 

“We’re going to figure out exactly how many boosters someone needs or what antibody level is needed to protect ourselves,” he said. 

Smith added that even young people who might experience mild symptoms should still get boosters as more variants emerge, to prevent spreading the virus to those more vulnerable.

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