COVID-19: from pandemic to endemic

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Ana Teresa Leitão, a 3rd year Medical Student from NOVA Medical School, in Lisbon. 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.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has represented a major public health threat, killing more than 5 million people worldwide.

Over the last months, we have tried to acquire herd immunity by vaccinating ourselves. While vaccines do reduce transmission, they do not block infection to a high enough degree to eradicate the virus.  COVID-19 is still expected to remain a major contributor to illness and death for years to come. Therefore, instead of asking “When is it going to end?”, we should ask “When will it become endemic?”.

Countries will eventually reach an epidemiological endpoint, where COVID-19 becomes endemic and societies decide that the ongoing burden of disease is low enough that COVID-19 can be managed as a constant threat rather than an exceptional one requiring society-defining interventions.  This is a race that will not be won by the fastest, it will be a gradual evolution. By the end of 2022, the WHO estimates that 70 percent of the world’s population will be vaccinated.

The future of COVID-19 could be as mild as a common cold, but it could also put pressure in health systems if it gets worse.

Moreover, endemic COVID-19 is upon us and new approaches are needed. We have all the tools we need, so what can we do?

First of all, reach a consensus on defining our new normal, by setting achievable goals. Secondly, we should be tracking progress and monitoring data, by developing new technologies, in order to limit the number of infections and deaths.This can be accomplished by developing and approving more treatments, higher uptake of booster shots among those who are eligible (increasing protective antibodies), social distancing measures when and when required and wearing masks. Ultimately, populations will slowly edge towards herd immunity.

This virus has impacted people in every way possible and it will continue to exist. This is a worldwide issue and we will require everyone’s help to change this situation. Are you willing to help change the world?

About the author

Ana Teresa Leitão is a 3rd year Medical Student from NOVA Medical School, in Lisbon. She is the Science and Research Coordinator in her Medical School’s Students Union (AEFCM) and collaborator in her Medical’s School journal: FRONTAL. She is also Team Leader in the Events’ Department in a company specialized in communication.

She enjoys writing and reading, as well as travelling to other countries and exploring different cultures. Since her 1st year in Medical School, she has had interest regarding COVID-19 and she wants to bring a message of hope to many people who have suffered from this situation

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