Global vaccination will not mark the end of Covid-19, say World Health Organization researchers. They anticipate that SARS-CoV-2 will continue to roam the community, like seasonal flu viruses, and say people need to learn to live with it.
They say that although the epidemic has been serious, it is not necessarily “the big one”.
David Heymann, who heads the WHO Advisory Group on Infectious Diseases, says it is the “fate” of SARS-CoV-2 to become endemic despite vaccinations. The virus will continue to mutate, especially as there is a lot of infection.
“Fortunately, we have the resources to save lives, and that, combined with general health, will enable us to learn to live with Covid-19,” Heymann told a news conference today.
No eradication guarantee
Mark Ryan, who heads the WHO response team, said the virus would remain a threat but a moderate threat if enough people were vaccinated. He said it would be necessary to find out how many people would be vaccinated before it could be assessed whether it was realistic to try to eradicate the virus.
“The presence of a vaccine, even a vaccine that works well, is not a guarantee for the eradication of an infectious disease. It is a very high goal to be able to achieve.”
Ryan said the purpose of the vaccine was primarily to save lives and protect the vulnerable, but eradication was a distant dream. He warned that the next epidemic could be more serious.
“This pandemic has been severe … it has affected all areas of this planet. But this is not necessarily the big one, “said Ryan.
SARS-CoV-2 would have been a revival
“We are learning, now, how we can do better,” he said. “We live in an increasingly complex international community. If there’s one thing we have to learn from this epidemic, all the tragedy and loss, it is to unite us. We need to honor those we have lost by getting better at what we do every day,” reports the Guardian.
The vaccines may not prevent infection
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said vaccination should not stop people from considering personal infection control. The vaccines would prevent symptoms, serious illness, and death, but it was uncertain whether they would stop the infection.
“I do not believe we have any evidence that any of the vaccines prevent infection and that people infect others,” she said. “So we have to assume that people who have been vaccinated have to take the same precautions.”
WHO Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the new year brings new challenges.
“For example, a new variant of Covid-19 and helping those who are tired of the epidemic to continue fighting it,” he said.
He said he was delighted with the remarkable results that had been achieved, but WHO staff would not rest until everyone had access to the Covid-19 vaccines.