The coronavirus pandemic is likely to last as long as two years and won’t be controlled until about two-thirds of the world’s population is immune, a group of experts said in a report.
Because of its ability to spread from people who don’t appear to be ill, the virus may be harder to control than influenza, the cause of most pandemics in recent history, according to the report from the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (Cidrap ) at the University of Minnesota.
People may actually be at their most infectious before symptoms appear, according to the report.
After locking down billions of people around the world to minimise its spread through countries, governments are now cautiously allowing businesses and public places to reopen.
Yet the coronavirus pandemic is likely to continue in waves that could last beyond 2022, the authors said.
“As of the end of April, we have reached about five to seven percent of global infection so we know we have a long way to go,” said Dr. Marc Lipsitch, one of the report’s authors. “To reach the 60 percent to 75 percent of immunity we believe we will ultimately need, there will be many more spikes and waves of the pandemic.”
He continued: “Risk communication messaging from government officials should incorporate the concept that this pandemic will not be over soon,” he said, “and that people need to be prepared for possible periodic resurgences of disease over the next two years.”
Developers are rushing to make vaccines that may be available in small quantities as early as late this year but researchers believe it will be in the second half of 2021, at the earliest, before one will be widely available. Even then, the caution, the first vaccine may one be partially effective.
While large amounts of vaccine against the 2009-2010 flu pandemic did not become available until after the outbreak peaked in the U.S., one study has estimated that the shots prevented as many as 1.5 million cases and 500 deaths in that country alone, the report said.
The report was written by Cidrap director Michael Osterholm and medical director Kristen Moore, Tulane University public health historian John Barry and Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Credit: The Straits Times