The world is beginning to understand that the uphill climb to defeat Covid-19 will continue. And as COVID-19 continues to run its course, the likeliest long-term outcome is that the virus SARS-CoV-2 becomes endemic in large parts of the world.
COVID-19 could transition into a mild childhood illness, like the four endemic human coronaviruses that contribute to the common cold. In all honestly, that still gives no context to when things will be normal again.
“My guess is, enough people will get it and enough people will get the vaccine to reduce person-to-person transmission,” says Paul Duprex, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Vaccine Research. “There will be pockets of people who won’t take the vaccines, and there will be localized outbreaks, but it will become one of the ‘regular’ coronaviruses.”
However, this transition won’t happen overnight. Experts say that SARS-CoV-2’s exact post-pandemic trajectory will depend on three major factors: how long humans retain immunity to the virus, how quickly the virus evolves, and how widely older populations become immune during the pandemic itself.
Depending on how these three factors shake out, the world could be facing several years of a halting post-pandemic transition. One marked by continued viral evolution, localized outbreaks, and possibly multiple rounds of updated vaccinations.
With our government focusing on the new President and his administration getting things moving forward on multiple fronts, we have to face this pandemic head-on. And we need all hands on deck.