A new highly mutated variant of COVID-19 has been identified by South Africa. This version appears to be more transmissible than the already highly infectious Delta strain that has been predominating new infections. Within two days of this announcement, Omicron has been detected in practically every country that is looking for it. There is even some indication that the variant may not have originated in South Africa itself. In that country, the variant has taken over from other strains to being over 30% of all infections.

However, this variant appears for the most part to produce only mild illness in the vaccinated. I would hazzard a guess to say that those who are resistant to getting vaccinated will soon enough get the Omicron variant and resolve one way or another. In countries with decent health care and a significant percentage (> 75%) vaccinated, the impact on health care will likely be manageable. It remains to be seen what the mortality rates for the unvaccinated will be.

That said, the sheer speed at which Omicron is spreading will probably defeat efforts to get the unvaccinated protected, and in fact this could be the signal that we are entering the endemic phase. My estimate (holds moistened finger in the air) is that by the end of 2022, all who are going to get it, will get it. We will either be vaccinated by vaccine, or by virus.