COVID Is Here to Stay
Completely eradicating a disease is not easy. In fact, to date, the World Health Organization (WHO) has only declared two diseases as eradicated: smallpox and rinderpest (a disease that affects cattle). If a disease can’t be eradicated, it becomes endemic – which means that a disease outbreak is constantly present but limited to a particular region or area. The disease spread and rates are somewhat predictable. It also means that there is the ability to help manage the disease through vaccines and, when appropriate, other therapeutics. Columbia Mailman School of Public Health has an informative explanation of some words that we have been hearing a lot about lately: epidemic, pandemic and endemic. It is worth a read.
Malaria is considered to be endemic in certain regions and countries; so is the flu. Many experts have said that they expect that COVID-19 will become endemic. In January 2021, Nature.com, a prestigious online scientific journal, did a survey where they asked more than 100 immunologists, infectious-disease researchers and virologists working on the coronavirus whether it could be eradicated. Their response was interesting: 90% of respondents said that they think that the coronavirus will become endemic.
In the article, it says that even though COVID-19 may not be eradicated, this “does not mean that death, illness or social isolation will continue on the scales seen so far. The future will depend heavily on the type of immunity people acquire through infection or vaccination and how the virus evolves. Influenza and the four human coronaviruses that cause common colds are also endemic: but a combination of annual vaccines and acquired immunity means that societies tolerate the seasonal deaths and illnesses they bring without requiring lockdowns, masks and social distancing.” This is an important point to note and shows how crucial it is for people to get vaccinated. Being vaccinated and, if required, getting an annual vaccine for COVID-19 will be key in managing the virus and keeping those who are most vulnerable in our communities safer.
The article also says that more than one-third of the respondents to the survey “thought that it would be possible to eliminate SARS-CoV-2 from some regions while it continued to circulate in others. In zero-COVID regions there would be a continual risk of disease outbreaks, but they could be quenched quickly by herd immunity if most people had been vaccinated.”
As cities, towns and even entire countries begin to open up, we are seeing a new increase in cases. That tells us that we still have a long road ahead of us in managing this deadly virus so that the world can fully move forward. Vaccines continue to be the most important defense in fighting serious or deadly infections of COVID-19.
The more we come together to stop this virus from spreading, the quicker we can return to – and remain in – lives that allow us to be with others without the risk or fear of the virus being transmitted and potentially making someone/everyone very sick – or even losing their lives.
Stay safe and healthy out there – and get vaccinated.