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article imageOp-Ed: Get used to COVID-19, it will always be with us

By Tim Sandle     Jan 21, 2021 in Science
As global communities struggle to cope with both coronavirus infections that manifest as COVID-19 and the restrictions that come with the health emergency, the reality is dawning that we may always have to live with this virus and potentially others.
This rather bleak assessment, which comes as large scale vaccinations are being undertaken around the world and people begin to dream again of the freedom to travel, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that while the coronavirus pandemic has been extremely severe, it is “not necessarily the big one”. Furthermore, the health experts have stated and that the world will have to learn to live with COVID-19.
By this the experts mean that the virus will become endemic. This is irrespective of achieving mass vaccinations. The virus will inevitable mutate into forms that will require a modified vaccine and even in its current form, it is uncertain for how long immunity will last for. In some shape or form this means regular vaccinations will be necessary (much like the annual influenza jab) and social restrictions, albeit less restrictive, will need to continue.
This view has been put forwards by Professor David Heymann, who is the chair of the WHO’s strategic and technical advisory group for infectious hazards. In his address, epidemiologist Heymann unpicks the herd immunity concept. He notes that the coronavirus of concern (SARS-CoV-2) is the fifth human coronavirus. This virus will continue to mutate as it reproduces in human cells.
Also speaking at the conference was the Head of WHO Emergencies Program, Dr Mike Ryan. He states, as quoted by The Guardian, that following mass vaccinations: "The likely scenario is the virus will become another endemic virus that will remain somewhat of a threat...existence of a vaccine, even at high efficacy, is no guarantee of eliminating or eradicating an infectious disease."
The full briefing can be viewed here:
Eliminating the virus for good might remain a 'moonshot', but eliminating viruses is not easy as the long and complex path to close out smallpox showed. Very few diseases have ever been eradicated.
Ryan states further that there will likely be another viral pandemic in the future, although the impact could be less if lessons are learned from COVID-19. If not, Ryan says, "this is not necessarily the big one."
He goes on: “This is a wake-up call. We are learning, now, how to do things better: science, logistics, training and governance, how to communicate better. But the planet is fragile. We live in an increasingly complex global society. These threats will continue. If there is one thing we need to take from this pandemic, with all of the tragedy and loss, is we need to get our act together. We need to honour those we’ve lost by getting better at what we do every day.”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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