Scientists explain that Coronavirus is likely here to stay
“It’s important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” said Dr. Michael Ryan during a press conference held by the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 13 of 2020.
It is just shy of one year later and it still doesn’t seem like there is an end in sight for COVID-19. However, a new study published in the Science journal shows that the virus is likely here to stay.
As a matter of fact, four of the six types of coronaviruses that are known to affect humans are already endemic, according to a study in the journal Trends in Microbiology. These four viruses circulate freely and are just about as disruptive as a common cold.
But what does it mean when a virus is endemic and how does it get to be that way?
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, “Endemic refers to the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area.”
Diseases that are usually present in a community — without causing disruption — are referred to as endemic or “baseline.” A disease can continue to circulate at this “baseline” level indefinitely, and continues to be considered endemic so long as its level of prevalence does not get any higher.
“Our model, incorporating these components of immunity … suggests that once the endemic phase is reached and primary exposure is in childhood, CoV-2 may be no more virulent than the common cold,” states the abstract in the Science study.
That is to say, COVID-19 will still be contagious but won’t cause people to get as sick over time, eventually becoming just another viral infection, as a result of herd immunity.
According to pharmaceutical company and developers of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer, this type of immunity takes place when a greater part of the population becomes immune to a disease as a result of either vaccinations or immunity developed as a consequence of having contracted the disease.
However, according to a 2020 article published by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in order for herd immunity to be effective, approximately 50 to 90 per cent of the population must be immune.
That being said, with only 2.22 per cent of the Canadian population having been vaccinated with the first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and over 770,000 total confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of Jan. 30, there is still a long way to go until herd immunity is achieved.
Graphic by Taylor Reddam. @5ecret