Public Health and Pandemics Interviews

🎙️ Forecasting the Omicron Variant with Juan Cambeiro

Clay Graubard
Michał Dubrawski
Andrew Eaddy
Clay Graubard, Michał Dubrawski, Andrew Eaddy

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Show Notes (click)

  • 00:00 - Intro
  • 02:27 - How Juan built his understanding of Omicron
  • 08:13 - Potential role of challenge trials and other booster discussions
  • 11:57 - The five forecasts: Question selection
  • 13:42 - Forecast #1: When will Omicron become the predominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in the U.S.?
  • 18:10 - Forecast #2: Will the US, UK, or EU authorize an Omicron-specific booster before 2023?
  • 20:07 - Remaining forecasts: Omicron R0 and relative lethality versus Delta
  • 25:12 - What should policymakers do in response to Omicron and these forecasts?
  • 34:34 - What signals are you looking out for?
  • 36:59 - What other forecasting questions about Omicron should we be asking?
  • 40:17 - Juan's final thoughts on the Omicron variant
  • 41:40 - Rapid Fire Forecast + Outro

Almost two weeks ago the world became aware of a new troubling variant of the SARS-CoV-2 which we now call Omicron. Immediately, the new variant raised all sorts of red flags within the scientific community and caused reverberations in public policy and markets. However, the information we had was growing but limited, making it difficult to say how Omicron would change the pandemic.

How should we understand Omicron relative to Delta? How does Omicron change the nature of the pandemic and what steps should we be taking in response? These questions require navigating and quantifying uncertainty, while also making forecasts about the future. We could think of no one better than Juan Cambeiro for answers.

Juan Cambeiro is a Global Guessing alum, Good Judgment superforecaster, and Metaculus analyst, who placed first in IARPA's FOCUS Tournament on COVID-19 forecasting and was the former first-place COVID forecaster on Good Judgment Open.

Juan recently wrote a fantastic article on Metaculus about the Omicron variant–providing a concise analysis of the variant from an epidemiological and public health perspective, while also offering five concrete forecasts about it:

  1. When will Omicron become the predominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in the U.S.?
  2. Will the US, UK, or EU authorize an Omicron-specific booster before 2023?
  3. What will be the R0 of the Omicron variant according to the mean estimate of the first relevant systematic review?
  4. Will the Omicron variant be more lethal than Delta?
  5. Will the Omicron variant be less lethal than Delta?

You can find the Metaculus community forecasts for these questions at the end.

In this podcast, we'll talk to Juan about how he analyzed and understood the variant, chose and forecasted these five questions, and key signals he’s identified and looking out for in the future. We'll also chat about how policymakers and others should respond to the variant and understand the information from these forecasts. At the end, we'll discuss additional forecasting questions we should be asking to better understand the variant's impact on the pandemic.

Note: This podcast was recorded on December 6, 2021.

Helpful Resources

Omicron: What We Know, What To Expect, & What To Do
Metaculus is a community dedicated to generating accurate predictions about future real-world events by aggregating the collective wisdom, insight, and intelligence of its participants.
The article Juan wrote for Metaculus featuring background on Omicron as well as his five forecasts and rationale.
A thread by Juan with great sources to follow on Twitter about the Omicron variant. 
Responding to a question on transmission versus lethality, Juan mentioned this insightful thread by Adam Kucharski.

Metaculus Forecasts

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