The work before us now — detecting, tracking and slowing the spread of a health threat we do not fully understand — is the same work that will be required to stop a future outbreak in its tracks.
The analogy is not perfect. When Omicron arrived, scientists had already developed vaccines and treatments for the virus and were on high alert for new variants. The next pandemic may come with less warning.
“We know that there are pathogens worse than SARS-CoV-2 that are emerging and re-emerging and waiting for their moment to take off,” said Rick Bright, the chief executive of the Pandemic Prevention Institute at the Rockefeller Foundation.
Omicron’s emergence is an opportunity to take stock of both the gains we have made and the ways in which we are still falling short. It is also a call to action: Whatever progress we have made is not enough.