How can we live with COVID-19 if it stays with us forever?

Lahore, 24th January: If COVID-19 pandemic is likely to stay with us forever, then how to live with it?

Baaghi TV: Experts now say that the coronavirus pandemic is likely to stay with us forever. But eventually, the virus would become a much milder illness.

Experts also say that for now, vaccination and surveillance are critical to ending the pandemic phase.

It is likely that the virus SARS-CoV-2 becomes endemic in large swaths of the world, continually circulating among the human population but causing fewer cases of severe disease.

However, years or even decades in the future, COVID-19 could change into a mild childhood illness, like the four endemic human coronaviruses that contribute to the common cold.

Paul Duprex director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Vaccine Research says, “My guess is, enough people will get it and enough people will get the vaccine to reduce person-to-person transmission. There will be pockets of people who won’t take [the vaccines], there will be localized outbreaks, but it will become one of the ‘regular’ coronaviruses.”

Experts say that the transition won’t happen overnight and that SARS-CoV-2’s exact post-pandemic trajectory will depend on three major factors: how long humans retain immunity to the virus, how quickly the virus evolves, and how widely older populations become immune during the pandemic itself.

Depending on how these three factors spread, the world could be facing several years of a stuttering post-pandemic transition, one marked by continued viral evolution, localized outbreaks, and possibly multiple rounds of updated vaccinations.

As per reports from the National Geographic, Roy Anderson, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Imperial College London says, “People have got to realize, this is not going to go away. We’re going to be able to manage it because of modern medicine and vaccines, but it’s not something that will just vanish out of the window.”

One of the essential factors regarding the future of COVID-19 is our immunity to the illness. The human immune system can confer different degrees of partial protection from a pathogen, which can divert severe illness without necessarily preventing infection or transmission.

Experts agree that transitioning beyond a pandemic depends upon the prevalence of immunity, especially among older and more vulnerable populations.

Younger people, especially children, will build up immunity against SARS-CoV-2 over a lifetime of exposure to the virus. However, today’s adults have had no such luxury, leaving their immune systems exposed to the virus.

The exact approach for getting population-wide immunity that slows down the virus’s spread will depend upon how contagious future mutant variants become.

As of yet, research of early variants of SARS-CoV-2 suggests that at least 60 to 70 per cent of the human population will have to become immune to end this pandemic phase. This can be achieved in two ways, vaccination on a large-scale, or recovery from natural infections.

However, achieving global immunity through uncontrolled spread comes with appalling results, a lot more deaths and hospitalizations around the world. 

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