Healthcare workers wearing protective clothing prepare to care for patients in the Portimao Arena sports pavilion, which was converted into a field hospital for Covid-19 patients on February 9, 2021 in Portimao, Algarve Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP via Getty Images)


LONDON – More and more doctors and public health officials are warning that despite the mass adoption of safe and effective vaccines, Covid could become a permanent fixture.

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, the CEO of Moderna, Stephane Bancel, and the Executive Director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergency Program, Dr. Mike Ryan, have said over the past few weeks that the coronavirus may never go away.

To date, more than 107 million people worldwide have contracted Covid-19 with 2.36 million deaths. This is based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, warned in October that the virus appears to be on its way to becoming endemic. He reiterated his position this week during a webinar for the Chatham House think tank.

“I think if you talked to most epidemiologists and most public health workers today they would say that they believe this disease will become endemic at least in the short term and most likely in the long term,” he said.

Heymann is Chairman of the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Risks and headed the Infectious Diseases Division of the UN agency during the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003.

We must learn lessons from 2020 and act quickly. Every day counts.

Dr. Jeremy Farrar

Director of Wellcome

Heymann warned that it is not yet possible to be certain of the fate of the virus, as its outcome depends on many unknown factors.

“At the moment the focus is on saving lives as it should be and ensuring that hospitals are not overloaded with Covid patients – and this will be possible in the future,” Heymann cited the mass introduction of vaccines.

“We must learn lessons from 2020”

The mass release of Covid vaccines began almost two months ago in many high-income countries and has gained momentum, but mass immunization of populations will take time.

However, some low-income countries haven’t received a single dose of vaccine to protect those most at risk from the coronavirus.

A doctor takes notes during a training session given by Chinese doctors and medical experts on a conference call in Maputo, Mozambique, May 21, 2020. Chinese obstetricians and pediatricians share their experiences with Mozambican doctors about the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 in pregnant women and children through a conference call at the Maputo Central Hospital.

Never Zuguo | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

A report released last month by the Economist Intelligence Unit forecast that most of the adult populations in advanced economies would be vaccinated by the middle of next year. In contrast, for many middle-income countries this time span extends to early 2023 and for some low-income countries even to 2024.

It underscores the scale of the challenge of bringing the pandemic under control worldwide.

“Covid-19 is an endemic infection in humans. The scientific reality is that in so many people infected worldwide, the virus continues to mutate,” said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome and a member of Scientific in the UK Emergency Advisory Group.

“However, living with this virus doesn’t mean we can’t control it. We need to learn lessons and act quickly from 2020 onwards. Every day counts,” he added.

Balancing our lives with endemic diseases

“I think it’s good to put this in context and think about the other infectious diseases that are endemic today,” Heymann said during an online event Wednesday when asked if policy makers were responding to the Covid pandemic should consider other endemic diseases.

He cited tuberculosis and HIV, as well as four endemic coronaviruses that are known to cause colds.

“We’ve learned how to deal with all of these infections, we’ve learned how to do our own risk assessments. We have vaccines for some, we have therapeutics for others, we have diagnostic tests that can help us all do a better job.” . ” living with these infections. “

“There are some unknowns that make it very difficult for political and public health leaders to make decisions about the best strategies, including the fact that we don’t fully understand ‘long covid’ and its implications or effects even after the very occurrence minor infections, “he continued.

“So it’s not about the fact that it’s a special disease. This is one of many that we have to reconcile our lives with and understand how we have to deal with influenza and other infections,” said Heymann.

A nurse (R) checks a computer with the hospital director, Doctor Yutaka Kobayashi, in the coronavirus ward of Sakura General Hospital on February 10, 2021 in Oguchi, Japan. The hospital, like many others in Japan, has seen a steady influx of Covid-19 coronavirus patients over the past year as the country grapples with the ongoing virus pandemic.

Carl Court | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The term “Long Covid” refers to patients who, after initially contracting the virus, suffer from a prolonged illness with symptoms such as shortness of breath, migraines and chronic fatigue.

Public discourse on the pandemic has largely focused on people with serious or fatal illness, while persistent medical problems as a result of the virus are often either underestimated or misunderstood.

Last month, the largest global study to date on Long Covid found that many of those affected were unable to return to full capacity six months later.