The central problem is that the coronavirus has become more adept at reinfecting people. Already, those infected with the first Omicron variant are reporting second infections with the newer versions of the variant — BA.2 or BA2.12.1 in the United States, or BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa.
Those people may go on to have third or fourth infections, even within this year, researchers said in interviews. And some small fraction may have symptoms that persist for months or years, a condition known as long Covid…
It’s difficult to quantify how frequently people are reinfected, in part because many infections are now going unreported. Dr. Pulliam and her colleagues have collected enough data in South Africa to say that the rate is higher with Omicron than seen with previous variants.
This is not how it was supposed to be. Earlier in the pandemic, experts thought that immunity from vaccination or previous infection would forestall reinfections.