COVID-19: when are we finally going to eradicate it?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Abiola Asekun, a 4th year medical student at Sumy State University, Ukraine. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


The COVID-19 pandemic, like all other pandemics in history, will eventually end, but the question is when. As more lives are lost, economies fall, and people’s financial and mental health deteriorate, the anticipation for its end grows by the day. COVID-19, like the Spanish flu, could become endemic, or, like the SARS-COV and the black death, it could simply vanish (become extinct). The answer to the question of when we will finally get rid of the COVID-19 is most likely never. Prior to the emergence of the delta variant of COVID-19, it was conceivable that the Covid-19 would eventually become nothing more than history; however, that may now be seen as a mirage.

With the arrival of the Delta variant, the United Kingdom was the first among high-income countries to be pushed back toward normalcy. Due to its high transmissibility, the Delta variant has effectively pushed overall herd immunity out of reach in most countries. Because a virus’s terminal fate is determined by its transmissibility, viruses that are highly contagious may never die out. In comparison to the SARS-COV2, the R0 (reproduction number) of the first SARS-COV was 2, whereas the R0 number of the Delta variant of the SARS-COV-2 is 6-7, this made it easier for the first SARS-COV to be eradicated with little public health intervention (COVID-19).

Another source of concern is the emergence of a new, more transmissible, and more virulent COVID-19 variant. Viruses evolve all the time because they want to replicate themselves in the host cell. The code for the COVID-19 is around 30,000 letters long, and if you’ve ever taken a typing class, you know how difficult it is to retype something without making a mistake, so it may make some mistakes along the way. When this error spreads throughout the population, it results in the emergence of a new variant.

Some experts believe we have seen the majority of the dangerous mutations that the virus is capable of. COVID-19, on the other hand, has previously surprised us and is capable of doing so again. The scientific community has discovered a new strain of COVID-19 (not yet considered a variant), the AY.4.2, also known as Delta plus, which is now present in dozens of countries. The consequences of this mutation are not yet clear.

The effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine against the Delta variant, as well as the possibility of reinfection, is now being called into question. This completely eliminates the possibility of achieving herd immunity, making COVID-19 extinction extremely unlikely.

With the increased transmissibility, questioned vaccine effectiveness, and the possibility of a more virulent variant, it now appears more likely that countries will be able to control the burden of COVID-19 as an endemic disease rather than it being extinct. Vaccination, however, has proven to be the most effective and cost-effective public health tool in preventing and controlling the disastrous COVID-19 epidemic to date.

References

  1. Charumilind, S., Craven, M., Lamb, J., Sabow, A., Singhal, S., & Wilson, M. (2021, August 23). When will the COVID-19 pandemic end? McKinsey & Company. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/when-will-the-covid-19-pandemic-end.
  2. Gates, B. (2021, March 31). 5 things you should know about variants. gatesnotes.com. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.gatesnotes.com/Health/5-things-you-should-know-about-variants.
  3. Larson, C. (2021, March 11). Will the coronavirus ever go away? AP NEWS. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://apnews.com/article/will-coronavirus-ever-go-away-98ae7fbfdc457425dae47efb38139db2.
  4. Miguel, K. (2020, February 28). Here’s a look at some of history’s worst pandemics that have killed millions. ABC7 San Francisco. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://abc7news.com/pandemic-epidemic-coronavirus-definition-what-is/5974174/.
  5. Sawyer Professor of Molecular, S., Barbachano-Guerrero Postdoctoral Researcher in Virology, A., & Warren Postdoctoral Fellow in Virology and Immunology, C. (2021, November 5). Is covid-19 here to stay? A team of biologists explains what it means for a virus to become endemic. The Conversation. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://theconversation.com/is-covid-19-here-to-stay-a-team-of-biologists-explains-what-

About the author

This article was written by Abiola Asekun, a 4th year medical student at Sumy State University, Ukraine. Due to her passion and love for education, she has participated in different conferences both medical and non-medical. She is very dynamic in learning from all fields, she is dependable, ready to learn, aspiring to specialize and seize new opportunities, looking to improve current medical skills by studying the analytical parts of medicine.

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