Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.
Why it matters: The warnings come as there's no guarantee that subsequent variants "will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them," underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.
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The chance of the virus mutating increases with every infection, raising concerns as the highly contagious Omicron variant rapidly spreads, per AP.
Between the lines: It's not clear what subsequent variants might look like or how they may impact the pandemic, experts caution.
What they're saying: "The faster Omicron spreads, the more opportunities there are for mutation, potentially leading to more variants," Leonardo Martinez, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Boston University, told AP.
"It’s the longer, persistent infections that seem to be the most likely breeding grounds for new variants," Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said, per AP.
"It’s only when you have very widespread infection that you’re going to provide the opportunity for that to occur."
The big picture: Preliminary research suggests that the highly contagious Omicron variant is more resistant to prior coronavirus infection than with other variants, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.
Initial studies also have found that coronavirus vaccines — particularly without a booster shot — are less effective against Omicron infections than other variants, although they appear to hold up well against severe disease.
The World Health Organization reported nearly 20 million new COVID-19 cases over the last seven days.
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