COVID-19 is expected to become an endemic disease in 2022 and beyond. With delta-variable eruptions declining in many regions around the world, scientists are beginning to chart the virus’ transition from pandemic to endemic.
According to scientists, it is possible that the first countries to emerge from the epidemic combined high vaccination rates with natural immunity among those who were previously infected with the Corona virus.
They predict that countries such as the US, UK, Portugal and India will be the first to recover from the pandemic.
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However, researchers warn that SARS-CoV-2 is an unpredictable and constantly evolving virus as it spreads among the unvaccinated population. The possibility of the virus mutating to the point that it would hardly outgrow its acquired immunity has not been completely ruled out, and there is still a risk of a “doomsday scenario”.
However, they expressed growing confidence that many countries will be left behind by the worst of the pandemic in the coming year.
Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist who leads the World Health Organization (WHO): “We believe that between now and the end of 2022, that is the point where we have this virus under control … where we can significantly reduce severe disease and death” COVID- response 19.
The agency’s assessment is based on the work of disease experts who are determining the likely course of the epidemic over the next 18 months. The World Health Organization aims to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population by the end of 2022.
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“If we get to that goal, we will be in a very, very different situation from an epidemiological point of view,” Van Kerkhove says.
Meanwhile, she expressed concern about countries lifting coronavirus precautions prematurely. “It’s amazing to me to see, you know, people in the streets, as if it’s all over.”
“Endemic does not mean benign,” she added.
The World Health Organization reported on October 26 that COVID-19 cases and deaths have been declining in nearly every region of the world since August.
The notable exception is Europe, where the delta variant has caused havoc in countries such as Russia and Romania with low vaccination rates as well as places with mask-release requirements.
In addition, the variable continues to contribute to an increase in the number of infections in countries such as Singapore and China, which have high vaccination rates but little natural immunity due to stricter lockdown measures.
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However, vaccines appear to prevent people from being hospitalized, even in countries like the UK where cases are increasing after pandemic restrictions are lifted.
As with other endemic diseases such as malaria, COVID-19 is expected to continue to contribute to illness and death for many years to come.
Experts predict that the virus will eventually behave like measles, which continues to cause outbreaks in areas with low vaccination rates.
Some see COVID-19 behaving like a seasonal respiratory infection like the flu. Others believe it could become a less deadly virus, affecting mostly children, but this could take decades.
Trevor Bedford, a computational virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center who tracks the evolution of SARS-CoV-2, sees a milder winter wave in the United States followed by transmission to an endemic disease in 2022-2023. He projects 50,000 to 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States annually, in addition to an estimated 30,000 annual deaths from influenza.
Bedford said the virus will likely continue to mutate, requiring annual booster doses tailored to the latest circulating variants.
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The world is still vulnerable because some countries have good vaccine programs and others have almost none, says Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
“What keeps me awake about the novel coronavirus is the concern that a variant could emerge that evades our vaccines and evades immunity from previous infection,” Hatchett said.
“This would be like a new COVID pandemic emerging even when we’re still in the old pandemic.”