'A COVID-19-tinged world is going to be the new normal'

A coronavirus-tinged world is going to be the new normal: Experts

Representative image. (Credit: Reuters Photo)

Scientists around the world are working 24x7 to find a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic, but, even after a COVID-19 vaccine is deployed across countries and communities, the coronavirus is here to stay, and may eventually, become endemic like HIV, measles and chickenpox, The Washington Post reported.

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However, no matter how fierce the virus is, this definitely isn’t the first coronavirus that later turned endemic. There are already four endemic coronaviruses that are in constant circulation, and it is very likely that the SARS CoV-2 will become the fifth in the list. 

“This virus is here to stay,” Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, told the publication. “The question is, how do we live with it safely?” she added.

According to the US daily, experts in epidemiology say that learning to live with COVID-19 is crucial to the next phase of the US' coronavirus pandemic response an should act as a call to arms for the public as well as the political clique. It is only with far-sighted thinking, coordinated political will, an amalgamation of international efforts, and a considerable amount of money and patience can such endemics be combated.

If the fast-tracked process of vaccine development goes smoothly from conception to market availability, it could take at least 12-18 months to deploy it successfully. Various media reports noted that, GSK, the world's largest vaccine maker, plans to produce 1 billion doses of vaccine efficacy boosters for COVID-19 shots next year, while GlaxoSmithKline Plc plans to produce 1 billion doses of a booster that can help any brand of shot. 

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However, Barney Graham, deputy director of the federal government's Vaccine Research Center, was quoted by the publication saying that emerging plans for vaccination are already stretching as far out as 10 years.

"We had a discussion this morning about what can be ready before this winter of 2021, what could be ready for 2021-2022, and what kind of regimen or vaccine concepts would we want after this has settled into a more seasonal virus," he said.

According to WHO, more than 100 vaccines are being developed across the world, with 10 candidates already in human trials. So far, China’s CanSino adenovirus vaccine, Oxford University’s adenovirus vaccine, Moderna’s mRNA vaccine and Novavax have shown promise. 

As a result, the experts’ proposition of vaccines not likely being a permanent solution to eradicate the disease, definitely came as a daunting one. Although, its effects growing milder by the day, yet coronavirus cases are on a constant rise. Most countries have also rushed into resuming their corporate workforce in order to keep the economy afloat even amidst the rise, while looking for “magic bullets” to bring an end to this pandemic. 

“It’s like we have attention-deficit disorder right now. Everything we’re doing is just a knee-jerk response to the short-term,” Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was quoted as saying by the publication. 

“People keep asking me, ‘What’s the one thing we have to do?’ The one thing we have to do is to understand that there is not one thing. We need a comprehensive battle strategy, meticulously implemented,” he added. 

With people from around the world waiting for their lives to return to normal, the reality that a COVID-tinged world is the new normal may be a hard pill to swallow for the teeming billions. 

Natalie Dean, a disease biostatistician at the University of Florida, told the Washington post that a future with an enduring coronavirus means that normal no longer exists. “As we find different ways to adapt and discover what works, that’s how we’re going to start reclaiming parts of our society and life,” she said.

However, even after a successful development of vaccines, a shortage of supply resulting in hoarding and ineffective vaccine campaigns, topped off with anti-vaccine campaigns/groups could be another daunting reality in the war against the pandemic.

"We also assume that everyone will want the vaccine because of the devastation this virus has caused, but that's a big assumption," Howard Koh, a top US health official during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, told the Post.

Besides, the lack of urgency is daunting. According to experts, it is very much likely that there won’t be a sense of urgency among people and the governments until the virus becomes more widespread and ends up infecting a loved one. 

The Washington Post quoted Michael T. Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy on this thought.

"It is like people who drive too fast. They come upon the scene of an accident, and for a little while, they drive more carefully, but soon they are back to speeding again,” he said.

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