Health & Fitness

'Study To Dwell With The Pandemic': Docs Warn A Vaccine Could Not Cease Covid From Changing into Endemic

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This April 10, 2020 illustration shows small bottles with the "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

LONDON – A Covid-19 vaccine development may not be enough to prevent the coronavirus from becoming endemic, infectious disease experts warn, suggesting that a better course of action is to learn to live with the virus.

According to the World Health Organization, dozens of vaccine candidates are in clinical evaluation. Drug manufacturers and research centers are working hard to end the pandemic.

More than 41 million people around the world have contracted the virus and killed 1.13 million people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Many governments have also tried to support the Covid-19 vaccine race by providing funds that companies can use to expand production even before drugs are approved.

Dr. David Heymann, who headed WHO's Infectious Diseases Division during the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, believes that some governments may be too strong at a time when effective communication, diagnostic testing and outbreak control measures are needed Reliant on vaccine development are critically important tools.

"The difficulty right now is that in many countries they are looking forward to a vaccine that may or may not come, that may or may not be effective in the short or long term, and they are looking for possible therapeutic (options) that could be many of the Solve problems, "said Heymann on Wednesday during a webinar for the think tank Chatham House.

"But that's not a good way to continue right now. … We need to learn to live with the pandemic."

Minimal damage

UK senior scientific advisor Patrick Vallance told the National Security Strategy Committee in London earlier this week that Covid-19 was likely to become as endemic as the annual flu.

This means that like other coronaviruses, the rate of infection of the coronavirus will eventually stabilize at a constant level so that the virus is present in communities at all times.

Vallance also said that it took an average of 10 years to make a vaccine from scratch. The fastest vaccine ever developed was for mumps and lasted more than four years.

A man plays the guitar under an empty Bethesda Terrace in Central Park in New York City on October 19, 2020. New York City plans to set up mass vaccination sites as soon as Covid-19 vaccines become available, which have been reviewed by an independent state body, Governor Andrew Cuomo, said October 18, 2020.

TIMOTHY A. CLARY | AFP via Getty Images

"One of the scenarios for this virus is that it will become endemic and it will look like this right now – just like it happened four times before when a coronavirus appeared in endemic human populations," Heymann said, referring to the four common ones human coronavirus.

"I think the answer is that this is going to be endemic," he continued. "We shouldn't just try to suppress this virus or suppress it to an unrealistic level. We need to be able to suppress it to a level where it causes minimal damage while entering a country and being endemic will. "

Risk assessments

When asked how people can learn to deal with the pandemic, Heymann replied, "Individuals need to know how to do their own risk assessments, as they do with sexually transmitted infections, as they do with tuberculosis, as they do with other infections do. "

"They need to do their own risk assessments and understand what steps they can take to prevent them from becoming infected and to prevent others from becoming infected," he said. "It's just about people understanding that if this virus is to become endemic, it will become endemic no matter what we do. But we can slow that down to a level that causes less disruption in our society and less death. "

Commuters wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic will walk past a London Underground station during the evening rus hour in central London on 23 September 2020.

TOLGA AKMEN | AFP via Getty Images

To protect themselves, the WHO recommends that people keep a distance of at least 1 meter (yard) from other people and disinfect surfaces that are touched frequently. It is also recommended that you clean your hands thoroughly and frequently, avoiding people touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.

"We now know that we have to live with this virus in a more chronic way – really long term," said Dr. Olivia Tulloch, CEO of Anthrologica, a leading research-based specialist in applied anthropology in global health.

During the webinar, Tulloch said that people in many countries, especially in the northern hemisphere, have been living with strict restrictive measures on their daily lives for several months with no signs that they will end anytime soon.

"And so people feel tired, confused and frustrated with the actions that are being taken against them," she continued. "We put a lot of resources into vaccine science, but we have a lot of work to do in social science."

It will also be important to understand the mechanisms that would be needed to address those with "high levels of reluctance" if a vaccine becomes available, Tulloch said.

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Katherine Clark