Covid: should Omicron be allowed to circulate freely to end the epidemic more quickly?

By Cécile D. Photos by My B. Posted on January 15, 2022 at 2:58 p.m.

By letting the Omicron variant circulate, we could reach the collective immunity threshold sufficient to put an end to the pandemic in France. Is this strategy recommended by the experts?

The bar of 300,000 cases of contamination to the daily Covid-19 has been regularly brushed against, even exceeded in recent weeks in France. The situation in Europe is not much more encouraging: according to WHO predictions, 50% of Europeans will be contaminated by Omicron within two to three months. This extremely contagious variant has not, however, prompted the French government to take very restrictive measures, unlike its European neighbors.

No confinement, no curfew or closed schools: a freedom that may have seemed suspicious to some observers. On the set of France Info, Wednesday 12 January, Olivier Veran defended the decisions of his government. ” We are not trying to let this variant circulate. […] Now it’s so contagious that yes, it’s circulating. »

Let the variant Omicron, is this an option? According to France Televisions, some scientists believe that by letting the variant contaminate a large number of French people, we could reach theherd immunity, thus pushing the pandemic coming to an end. The fact that Omicron causes fewer serious forms than its predecessors would also work in favor of this theory.

Yves Buisson, epidemiologist and president of the Covid unit of the National Academy of Medicine, explains: “ Omicron improves protection against the virus, makes it stronger and more durable. It triggers protection of the mucous membranes in the respiratory tract, nose, throat and mouth. Vaccines stimulate antibodies, but the virus has time to multiply in the upper airways. If you have additional mucous membrane protection, it’s much better. »

Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccine strategy at the EMA, would also be in favor of the free circulation of the virus. ” With the increase in immunity in the population, and with Omicron, there will be a lot of natural immunity in addition to vaccination. We will move quickly towards a scenario that will be closer to theendemicity “, Argues the expert.

However, this scenario does not convince everyone. If Omicron seems less dangerous than the previous forms of Covid-19, it is nonetheless a difficult to control virus, which still claims many victims every day. ” We are not immune to a good surprise, but it is not yet a trivialized virus like the common cold. Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly. Omicron, he hasn’t even been here two months. We do not yet know its medium-term consequences. This calls for the greatest vigilance and caution before letting it circulate freely. You can’t take bets on things like that “, tempers Mahmoud Zureik, professor of public health and epidemiology at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines on France Info.

Yves Buisson recognizes that this hypothesis is like “ play with fire. If Omicron kills less, he still sends many patients to the hospital: the resuscitation bed occupancy rate exceed 50% in all regions. In some, as in Corsica et en Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, we are even at more than 100%. Letting the virus circulate would be like hanging a sword of Damocles over the heads of the country’s hospital services. The vulnerable people would also be much more exposed to the virus, increasing the risk of contamination and death.

The risks are therefore too great to follow the path mentioned by these experts. Caution is always advised, as long as more than 90% of the population is not vaccinated. ” If the entire population were vaccinated and then contaminated by Omicron, we could envisage a way out of the crisis. ” Waiting for, “ must maintain the barrier measures. We can’t stop Omicron from spreading, but we mustn’t make it easy for him concludes Yves Buisson.

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