The future of Covid-19 into a common disease

Covid-19 is difficult to eradicate, but can become a common disease like a cold or flu when people effectively use vaccination weapons.

More than 20 months since the onset of Covid-19, people around the world are having to change the way they think about the disease that many health officials once believed they could control, with the emergence of the Delta super mutant. Infection makes the virus almost impossible to completely eradicate.

The number of global nCoV infections has increased sharply, even with countries that have successfully suppressed the epidemic with a “no Covid” strategy like Australia. In the US, the virus currently mainly affects people who have not been immunized against Covid-19, causing hospitalizations and deaths in many places to push new record levels.

“This virus will never let us go,” said Catherine O’Neal, medical director of Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This hospital is experiencing the largest outbreak not seen since the pandemic began.

Scientists are trying to answer the question of whether new strains of nCoV in the future will tend to be more deadly or contagious, as well as how the pandemic will end. However, the brightest scenario is not the eradication of the virus.

Mobile Covid-19 vaccine injection in Thu Duc City, August 1.  Photo: Quynh Tran

Mobile Covid-19 vaccine injection in Thu Duc City, August 1. Photo: Quynh Tran

Instead, many are predicting Covid-19 will become a common illness like a cold or flu, no longer causing mass hospitalizations and deaths, and people will likely need to be vaccinated regularly. to maintain immunity to the virus.

Even so, when Covid-19 becomes a common disease, or even if this state is established to be stable, depends on how quickly and how many people are vaccinated, according to Adolfo Garcia-Sastre , director of the Institute for Global Health and Emerging Pathogens at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, USA.

Roberto Burioni, a virologist at Vita-Salute University San Raffaele in Milan, Italy, warns The slow pace of vaccine deployment is posing a big threat to the world, because of the risk of emergence of new strains of nCoV. “We should provide effective vaccines at a reasonable price to everyone,” Burioni urged.

Vaccination for the whole world still seems to be a long journey. Only about 2.3 billion of the world’s 7.8 billion people are fully immunized, according to recent figures from the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project. Some epidemiologists estimate that about 1.1 billion people around the world have been infected with nCoV.

Angela Rasmusse, a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Foundation at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, said the risk of contracting the virus for unvaccinated people is increasing, as more and more people are vaccinated and the virus searches for new infections. The target is more vulnerable to attack.

“Many people will get infected in one way or another,” Rasmusse said, adding that vaccination is a safer way to avoid harm or death from Covid-19, as well as the risk of complications. new strains, adding to the burden on the health system and the economy.

Immunization has proven effective in reducing hospitalizations and deaths. Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that people who have not received the Covid-19 vaccine are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die than those who have been vaccinated, according to data. whether the agency has considered.

“The more people vaccinated, the less problems there will be,” said Garcia-Sastre, an influenza expert.

US President Joe Biden on September 9 announced that he was using federal power to require businesses with more than 100 employees to vaccinate all employees with Covid-19 vaccine, or conduct weekly nCoV testing. This regulation could affect up to 80 million people.

Biden’s plan also requires all government officials and contractors, as well as about 17 million healthcare workers in facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding, to get a Covid-19 vaccine. This is part of the Biden administration’s effort to raise national immunization rates.

Garcia-Sastre said the future Covid-19 could be less deadly than the flu, which kills half a million people globally each year, because the most widely used Covid-19 vaccines are evaluated. Better price than flu vaccine. However, Covid-19 can still be serious for people with weaker immune systems, such as the elderly or immunocompromised.

The reason many scientists believe that Covid-19 will eventually become a disease similar to a cold or flu Up to four other strains of corona virus have caused the common cold in humans. They speculate that these four viruses may have caused more severe illnesses, although they are uncertain. Stanley Perlman, a coronavirus researcher at the University of Iowa in the US, said these viruses have been spreading for a long time, but scientists don’t know how they evolved.

In addition, although the nCoV continues to mutate, producing new strains that are closely monitored, Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Institute in the US state of California, believes that Delta is such a strong mutation that it will be difficult for any new strain to dominate.

Some scientists are still concerned about the possibility of mutations that break through the protection of current vaccines. However, Dr Burioni said if the virus evolves to that extent, it will likely become less infectious or deadly, as its host dies too quickly before it can spread the pathogen to humans. is different. “Maybe the virus will pay the price,” he predicted.

This situation happened with the HIV virus in the 1990s. The virus mutated in a way that made it resistant to an antiretroviral drug. However, scientists have found that its ability to self-replicate has slowed down significantly, Burioni said.

But even if the nCoV doesn’t mutate to evade current vaccines, its gradual evolution could erode immunity over time, leaving people reinfected and needing booster doses of the vaccine. virologist Jesse Bloom at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the US, added that people’s immunity to other coronavirus strains that cause the common cold declines every three to five years.

Others believe that the virus will eventually stabilize and change only slightly thereafter. However, in the next two to three years, many new strains will emerge and authorities will have to race to give a booster dose of the vaccine, said epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim, director of the Center for AIDS Program Research in the US. South Africa, warning.

“We’re going to have to play cat and mouse with the virus,” he predicted.

Luster (Follow WSJ)


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