The future of the pandemic in the next 6 months

With billions of people in the world unvaccinated, Covid-19 is unlikely to end in the next 6 months, even stronger in the winter.

Approximately 5.76 billion doses of vaccine have been administered globally, with 42.3% of the world’s population receiving at least one dose. That means nearly 4 billion people globally are still unvaccinated.

While vaccination rates in rich countries are consistently above 60 percent, less than 1.9 percent of people in low-income countries receive at least one shot, according to Our World in Data.

Experts agree that vaccination is the key to humanity’s response to the pandemic. The current Covid-19 outbreak can be controlled when the majority of the global population, about 90-95%, has acquired immunity through vaccination or has been infected with nCoV. But with the current vaccine supply and vaccination rate, this goal is almost impossible to achieve in the next 6 months

“Without vaccination, we would become very vulnerable because the virus will spread widely and infect most people this fall and winter,” said Lone Simonsen, epidemiologist and professor of medical sciences. population economics at Roskilde University in Denmark, says.

Many experts share the view that nearly everyone will need to be vaccinated or infected, or both, before the pandemic ends. The race between the waves of infection and the global war on vaccination will not be over anytime soon.

“I think outbreaks will continue to happen around the world,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and an adviser to the US President. Joe Biden, said. “The epidemic will subside, possibly quite significantly. But after that, I think we could see another outbreak in the fall and winter this year.”

Outbreaks will cause schools to close. Nursing home residents face the risk of new infections even if they are vaccinated. Workers will have to weigh the risks of returning to work as hospitals are once again overwhelmed.

A vaccination site in Los Angeles, California in March. Photo: Reuters.

A vaccination site in Los Angeles, California in March. Photo: Reuters.

As children return to school in the fall and people tend to congregate in enclosed spaces during the winter, the world could record new outbreaks at schools, public transport or workplaces. over the next few months, as economies reopen.

Even if vaccination rates increase, a part of the population is still vulnerable to Covid-19, such as infants, people who cannot be vaccinated, and people who are infected after vaccination due to weakened immunity.

“We’re going to see outbreaks and declines at least for the next few years, as more vaccines are deployed,” Osterholm said. “But the challenge is how big are these surges and how far apart are they? We don’t know. I would say it’s like a wildfire that doesn’t stop until it burns everything down. “.

Five flu pandemics recorded in the past 130 years may offer clues to how Covid-19 works, according to Simonsen.

The epidemiologist said that although the longest global flu epidemics lasted five years, they were mostly concentrated in two to four outbreaks over an average of two to three years. Covid-19 is considered a more serious pandemic, as the second year is gradually ending amid the world experiencing the third outbreak and showing no signs of ending.

Since its outbreak in Wuhan in late 2019, Covid-19 has killed more than 4.6 million people, more than twice the number of deaths in any outbreak since the Spanish flu of 1918. .

Despite experiencing severe outbreaks last year and having relatively high vaccination rates, countries such as the US, UK, Israel and Russia have continued to record high numbers of new infections recently. Immunization reduces the risk of serious illness and death, but current outbreaks strike younger populations and other unvaccinated people.

Many countries with lower vaccination rates, such as Malaysia, Mexico, Iran and Australia, are seeing the most severe outbreaks, due to the emergence of the highly contagious Delta strain. As the virus continues to spread among the world’s billions of unvaccinated people, new strains could soon emerge.

History shows that the notion that the virus will gradually disappear over time is completely wrong, according to Simonsen. “While not every new mutation is more deadly, pandemics can become increasingly severe as the virus tries to adapt to a new host,” she said.

As a result, experts say people will need regular vaccinations to maintain protection against Covid-19.

A woman scans a QR code before entering a shopping mall in Singapore in May. Photo: Reuters.

A woman scans a QR code before entering a shopping mall in Singapore in May. Photo: Reuters.

Erica Charters, an associate professor of medical history at the University of Oxford, said the pandemic would end at different times in different regions. Governments will have to decide for themselves how much of a pandemic they can live with.

However, the current approaches of countries are very different. Countries like Denmark and Singapore are gradually easing restrictions to move towards living with the epidemic. Other countries such as the US and UK have fully reopened despite the sharp increase in the number of infections. A few countries like China and New Zealand continue to pursue a “no Covid” strategy.

“The end of Covid-19 will not be uniform. A pandemic is a biological phenomenon, but also a political and social phenomenon,” Charters said.

Experts said that no matter how different countries’ approaches, the consequences of the pandemic will continue for many years to come. Until then, most of the world will still have to cope with the wave of the epidemic for at least the next half year.

“We have to approach it with careful observation and a humble attitude,” says Osterholm. “Anyone who thinks we can get through the pandemic in the next few days or months is completely wrong.”

Thanh Tam (Follow Bloomberg)

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