Leading Epidemiologist Professor Rod Jackson says Kiwis should prepare for another year of messiness and uncertainty.
He says, “next year is going to be messy, it’s going to be uncertain. I mean everyone wants certainty, but viruses don’t play by any rules. We really don’t know. The best way to be prepared, is to be prepared for uncertainty.”
Jackson says international travel over the next 12 months is off the cards for him - and anyone who has planned to go overseas next year, “should make sure they've got a way out of it because we just don’t know what’s going to happen over the next 12 months. “
He says, it’s going to take weeks for us to fully understand the new variant Omicron.
“The first thing to find out is whether the vaccine prevents infection and it’s probably going to be weaker against infection than it has been with previous variants.
“The second issue which is the most important issue ultimately is whether it protects us against severe disease. Now the great news about the vaccine so far is, it really doesn’t matter what variant we've had; it's protected against severe disease and death. That's going to be the biggie and that could take a bit longer.”
He says it’s quite possible a whole new vaccine could be needed. However, “So far, they've now demonstrated that you can get a mRNA vaccine into the body. It works so the next vaccine is not such a big deal, they just need to tweak the message.
“We’re going to keep on getting mutations until we stop the virus in its tracks and the only way, we're going to do that is to vaccinate everybody,” said Jackson.
“New Zealanders just need to get out and get vaccinated if they're not vaccinated, because every time the virus replicates, it mutates. If we're going to do our part, we need to stop it doing that.”
He says the government’s decision to require 14 days in managed isolation from New Zealand citizens travelling into New Zealand, from nine southern African countries, recently added to the high-risk countries' list due to news of the new variant is “cautious” and “appropriate”.
“We're okay in New Zealand because we've got a tight border so we're very fortunate. If this was mid-January and we'd opened up a bit, I'd be far more concerned, but at the moment, we're okay. I think we can wait and watch and find out whether this a big problem.”