The virus that caused COVID-19 has been with us for more than almost seventeen months and will continue in many parts around the world until late this year. It has been the dream for all of us that it will go away, but yet it is still everywhere all over the places around the world.
It’s been a continuing challenge for scientists and researchers to get rid of it and free us from its threats. However, most scientists think it’s improbable. In January, Nature asked more than 100 immunologists, infectious-disease researchers and virologists working on the coronavirus whether it could be eradicated. Almost 90% of respondents think that the coronavirus will become endemic — meaning it will continue to circulate in pockets of the global population for years to come.
Fortunately the scale of the fear that we lived with will not continue on the same scales that we have seen so far. The future will depend heavily on the type of immunity people acquire through infection or vaccination and how the virus evolves accordingly. It is still difficult to predict exactly how the future would look like. A combination of annual vaccines and acquired immunity means that we will be able to tolerate the seasonal deaths and illnesses they bring without requiring total lockdowns and needs for continuing using masks and forcing social distancing in public places.
In zero-COVID regions there would still be continual risk of disease outbreaks, but they could be quenched quickly by herd immunity if most people had been vaccinated. Even if COVID will be eliminated from some countries there would be still risks for continuing reintroduction from places with limited vaccine coverage and ineffective public-health measures.
Countries that have begun distributing COVID-19 vaccines soon expect to see a reduction in severe illness. But it will take longer to see how effectively vaccines can reduce transmission. More than 70% of the researchers surveyed by Nature think that immune escape will be another driver of the virus’s continuing circulation. Living with endemic coronaviruses, frequent reinfections seem to boost immunity against related variants and typically people will experience only mild symptoms. Yet it is possible that vaccines won’t stop some people developing severe symptoms. Another fear comes from animal reservoirs and the future of COVID-19 will also depend on whether it establishes itself in a wild animal population. As is the case of several other diseases that have been brought under control but still persist because animal reservoirs that provide chances for pathogens to come back into people.
Read the full report at https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00396-2