By Richard Davis
Some people are delusional enough to think that humans will eradicate the COVID 19 virus. That is not likely. Consider the fact that the only infectious disease affecting humans ever to be eradicated was smallpox. That disease was declared eliminated on December 9, 1979.
Since then we have been exposed to a number of new and old diseases such as HIV, Ebola as well as the seasonal flu that we have learned how to control but not eliminate. It is estimated that about 35,000 Americans died from the flu during the 2018-19 flu season. That is an average number of deaths according to statistics from the past ten years.
According to the CDC, about 49% of adult Americans got flu shots last year and that is a slight increase of a few percentage points over previous years. It is possible that the uptake rate for the COVID vaccine might be higher than for the flu vaccine and that would be a good thing. It is also possible that more people got a flu shot this year because they have become so sensitized to the new world of communicable diseases.
Chances are slim that we will ever eliminate the seasonal flu. The currently available vaccines for COVID don’t have a long track record and we really do not know how long they will be effective, if those vaccinated can transmit disease and if they will need yearly or more often vaccinations to maintain some degree of immunity.
Based on my reading my best guess is that the COVID vaccine will probably have to be administered on a yearly basis and that we will end up treating it the same way we treat the seasonal flu with one big exception. COVID is more deadly.
The big question in most people’s minds about COVID is when we can go back to a life before COVID. We have all become weary of a world where we all look like surgeons. All of us are suffering varying degrees of social isolation and the economy is hanging on by a thread as the rich and powerful rake in profits from the pandemic while the rest of us struggle to keep businesses open and to pay our bills.
When will this madness end? No one knows. At some point, after a majority of people worldwide have been vaccinated for COVID 19, we will have to reassess where we stand with epidemiological data and decide how much risk we are willing to take to live life on our own terms.
I don’t think there will ever be clear answers. We will not wake up to headlines that say, “Pandemic Declared Over”, as many of us would like. Instead, we will continue to read about new cases and deaths and try to find some comfort in the fact that the numbers have improved and that the risk of dying from COVID is a little less than it was in 2020.
The sooner we realize that COVID is a forever disease the sooner we can come to terms with the changes in our lives that will have to continue for many years. When the day comes that masks are no longer the best we can do (if that is ever the case), we will still have to be careful about behavior related to disease transmission and always keep in mind how viruses are spread.
The world will never be the same after life with COVID 19.