"This virus may become another endemic virus in our communities. And this virus may never go away. HIV has not gone away but we have come to terms with the virus and we’ve found the therapies and prevention methods, and people don’t feel as scared as they were before and we’re offering long, healthy lives to people with HIV."
That’s what Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director, Health Emergencies Programme, WHO said back in May 2020, almost a year ago. On one hand, we finally have the vaccine and on the other, we are yet again seeing a rise in cases and as a result, more curfews and possible lockdowns. It looks like the novel coronavirus is here to stay and there are many reasons why this might happen.
In a survey conducted in January, 1 out of 5 Americans said they wouldn’t opt for the vaccine. Moreover, the vaccine isn’t being rolled out at the desired rate. In fact, The Economist’s Intelligence Unit in December estimated that won’t receive the vaccine before next year. This simple means: it won’t be over soon. Due to the slow pace of global vaccination and the abrupt and rapid emergence of variants of the virus, mainly due to the selective approach of the vaccine, health experts, researchers and policymakers can’t deny that COVID-19 might become an endemic disease. According to Tara C. Smith, an epidemiologist and professor at the Kent State University College of Public Health, SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t display characteristics of a virus that can be completely eradicated from the face of the earth. To make matters worse, due to the potential for animal reservoirs (the virus surviving amongst animals) and the fact that it’s also asymptomatic, it will be very difficult to curb it completely.
According to The Washington Post, scientists agree that no vaccine can be a final solution and will have to be updated regularly and hence the researchers will have to stay vigilant due to a large number of variants. There is a possibility that the novel coronavirus might become as common as the flu or the common cold. Many variants that have emerged in countries like Brazil, South Africa and the UK have the ability to spread more efficiently and dodge immune responses. There is also growing evidence that people once affected by the virus are at a possibility of getting reinfected by a variant and there’s also data suggesting that the vaccine may not be effective against variants.
Shabir A. Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, expressed that the implications of these occurrences can be manifold, in terms of how and in what ways the virus can resurge again. It’s likely that COVID-19 is here to stay. Although, many experts have said that the magnitude of the crisis will soon subside as vaccination progresses. The most obvious ray of hope as per health experts has come from a one-shot vaccine by Johnson & Johnson that has been able to protect even against severe disease from the variant, even though it offered a mild level of protection against moderate illness.