(The Hill) – A leading health expert said the more mild symptoms reported by vaccinated people against the coronavirus proves the inoculation is the best way to protect yourself from being seriously sick or dying from the disease, and that a surge in case numbers should no longer be the central metric by which to measure the pandemic.

“For two years, infections always preceded hospitalizations which preceded deaths, so you could look at infections and know what was coming,” Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown University and a former Harvard health expert said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “Omicron changes that. This is the shift we’ve been waiting for in many ways.” 

The country has shifted, Jha said, to a place where people who are vaccinated and especially those who have received a booster shot “are gonna bounce back” if they become infected with the coronavirus.

“That’s very different than what we have seen in the past,” he said. “So I no longer think infections, generally, should be the major metric.” 

Cases across the U.S. and globally have reached record levels not seen since the start of the pandemic and the omicron variant now makes up a bulk of infections, including breakthroughs in fully vaccinated and boosted people.

Jha said it remains important that health officials track infections among non-vaccinated individuals “because those people will end up in the hospital.” 

“But we really need to focus on hospitalizations and deaths now,” he said.  

Also on Sunday, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said he is optimistic the nation is now in a better position to beat the pandemic than when the outbreak began, citing enhanced testing and vaccine capabilities.