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The World Might Have To Just Live With Covid-19 Forever, Even With A Vaccine

The World Might Have To Just Live With Covid-19 Forever, Even With A Vaccine

Anne Dorall

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Experts say that Covid-19 will likely become endemic, meaning an infection that maintains a baseline population with no external input. The world already has endemic diseases such as chickenpox, malaria, and HIV, among others.

Emergencies expert from the World Health Organisation (WHO) Mike Ryan said that it is important to be realistic, knowing that no one can predict when the disease will disappear, or even if it does.

I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be.

Mike Ryan, WHO Executive Director of Health Emergencies

Without a vaccine, it can take four to five years to control the Covid-19 outbreak, since most people in the world have not yet been exposed to the virus. It’s been suggested that less than 10% of the world population have been exposed to Covid-19, leaving the remaining 90% susceptible.

There are already over 100 potential vaccines for Covid-19 being developed, including several in clinical trials, but experts have noted that it’s difficult to develop one which is effective against coronaviruses.

In addition to that, even if a working vaccine is developed, it’s not a promise that the disease can be so easily eradicated.

Credit: Freepik

There are many examples of existing vaccines already available on the market for diseases that are still around. Measles, chickenpox, and even the seasonal influenza (flu) all have vaccines available, but the world has only been successful in eradicating two diseases completely- of which only one is infectious in humans: smallpox.

Vaccinations for other diseases have helped to suppress numbers and prevent large-scale outbreaks, but complete eradication will be difficult. This is also due to the recent rise of an anti-vaxxing movement globally, creating pockets of vulnerable people.

Even in Malaysia, which has a robust immunization program and a high immunisation coverage at >95%, data collected by the Family Health Development Division at the Ministry of Health (MOH) shows that there is an increase in vaccine hesitancy and a geographic clustering of outbreaks.

At an international vaccine symposium in 2017, Dr Faridah Kusnin of the MOH Disease Control Division expressed his concern over growing numbers of anti-vaxxing communities in the country.

Malaysia has seen drastic decreases of infectious diseases since the introduction of nation-wide vaccinations in the 1950s, such as polio, measles, and Hepatitis B, among others.

Credit: Dr Faridah Kusnin

Despite this, the spread of anti-vaccine movements started around 2012 on social media, and has been growing in number since.

In 2013, there were 637 registered persons who refused vaccinations. In 2016, that number had tripled, with 1,815 persons registering to refuse vaccinations. A majority of anti-vaxxers cited religious reasons, doubt of content, and homeopathy alternatives as their main reason for refusing vaccinations.

Credit: Dr Faridah Kusnin

As such, Malaysia has also seen a resurgence of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPD) in recent years. Thus, it stands to reason that even if a Covid-19 vaccine becomes available, the disease will still likely be hanging around- albeit with possibly less risk than it carries now.

We may possibly just learn to live with Covid-19 as an endemic disease, much like how we have learned to live with the flu, HIV, or chickenpox. Though, of course, having a Covid-19 vaccine will mean a safer way of life for everyone.

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