Scientist who helped eradicate smallpox says we are far from the end of the Covid-19 pandemic

Aug 10, 2021 | 3 comments

By Adam Barnes

Renowned epidemiologist Larry Brilliant warned Sunday that until a majority of the global population is vaccinated against Covid-19, the virus will continue to mutate and spread.

Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant

“I think we’re closer to the beginning than we are to the end [of the pandemic], and that’s not because the variant that we’re looking at right now is going to last that long,” Brilliant, the founder of Pandefense Advisory, told CNBC.

“Unless we vaccinate everyone in 200 plus countries, there will still be new variants,” Brilliant, who was part of the World Health Organization’s team focused on eradicating smallpox, added.

Currently, 15.5 percent of the world’s population is fully vaccinated while roughly 30 percent have received at least one dose. But the disparity is sharp between rich and lower- and middle-income countries with data showing that the latter is around 1.1 percent partially vaccinated.

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Brilliant, who argues the delta variant might be the most contagious virus ever, told the outlet his modeling of the variant, based on outbreaks in New York and San Francisco, shows a v-shaped curve where the mutation eventually “runs out of candidates to infect.”

“That may mean that this is a six-month phenomenon in a country, rather than a two-year phenomenon. But I do caution people that this is the delta variant and we have not run out of Greek letters so there may be more to come,” Brilliant said.

The variant first discovered in India currently accounts for more than 80 percent of all new cases in the U.S., and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently warned that delta is about as contagious as chickenpox. Likewise, White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci is urging vaccination as a way to curb the possibility of a variant worse than delta.

“If we don’t crush the outbreak to the point of getting the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated, then what will happen is the virus will continue to smolder through the fall into the winter, giving it ample chance to get a variant which, quite frankly, we’re very lucky that the vaccines that we have now do very well against the variants — particularly against severe illness,” he said in an interview with McClatchy last week.

Yet Brilliant told the outlet the possibility of a super variant emerging that is completely resistant to available vaccines is low, adding his view that everyone should get their shots.

“It’s such a catastrophic event should it occur, we have to do everything possible to prevent it,” said Brilliant. “And that means get everyone vaccinated — not just in your neighborhood, not just in your family, not just in your country but all over the world.”

CDC data shows that nearly 59 percent of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
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Credit: The Hill

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