Controlling Coronavirus spread can take 4-5 years, can’t depend on a COVID-19​ vaccine alone: WHO scientist

Controlling Coronavirus spread can take 4-5 years, can't depend on a COVID-19​ vaccine alone: WHO scientist

Even as parts of the country prepare to reopen carefully, Coronavirus cases are still surging in many hotspots. Fresher cases are being reported and experts worry that some parts of the world may soon be experiencing a second wave of viral transmission – all of this when more than 100 groups are vying to develop a successful vaccine or experimenting with different medications and therapies to see what works in fighting the virus.

However, scientists from World Health Organisation are now saying that pinning our hopes on a vaccine alone won’t solve the crisis at large, adding that it could take anywhere between 4-5 years to actually contain the virus at large.

The predictions were made by a WHO expert, Soumya Vishwanathan, who in an interview said that it could take a long while before we are reading to bid goodbye to the virus.

“I would say in a four to the five-year timeframe we could be looking at controlling this.”

She also added that even while vaccines and treatment plans are being explored, there are lots of things to be considered, including production, the safety of the trials, any side-effects, pricing or transportation.

The statement comes after WHO chief, Mike Ryan said that the chances seem high that coronavirus might “never really go away” and we learn to adapt to the virus in the long run.

WHO, in its previous report, said that the lockdowns have been helpful in containing the spread, but are not the most effective way to stop the virus. For the virus to actually stop spreading, it is important that a minimum of 60-70% of the population gains immunity from the deadly infection. Herd immunity isn’t possible with coronavirus since affects every age group or category. The only possible find is it develop a vaccine fast.

Globally, companies like Moderna, Sanofi and Novavax are on their way to start human trials for their respective vaccines which will primarily make use of injecting genetic RNA of the virus inside the body to see how the immune system will react to it. These are some of the fastest trials we have been seeing, with some saying that by September, we shall have a million doses ready.

However, that still doesn’t mean we have it ready. Experts say that effective vaccines won’t be readily available before 12-18 months. A lot could go wrong, or there are a lot of things which haven’t been brought to light yet. Scouting for a vaccine alone can’t solve all problems.

Even as a number of medical groups and experts rally to develop a vaccine, and are claiming to have got promising results, there still remain issues surrounding the feasibility or efficacy of a given product. Even if a given vaccine or test gets approved, there are a lot of clinical trials to go through. Costing, to remains an issue which can make the product inaccessible for some, especially in under-developed or developing countries.

There’s also the growing anti-vaxxers movement in many parts of the world, which again, adds to the worries, who believe that taking a vaccine should be an individual choice and not a compulsory move. This can contribute to spreading, even if the other half does take the vaccine.

Clinical trials come in three phases, which prolong it. An experimental vaccine that is deemed safe and effective enough to be rolled out in a more limited way – to high-risk groups such as health workers. Another issue that hinders the fast development of a vaccine is licensing. In the past, the fastest rollout of an approved vaccine, the mumps vaccine, took close to 4 years to get all neccessary permissions and licensing.

The other issues which make it highly probable that the virus is here to stay in the problem of mutation. Coronavirus is one of a kind and we still are discovering the different number of ways the virus attacks the body, making the hunt for an effective vaccine even more challenging. While the other coronaviruses fizzled out on their own, SARS CoV-19 is only getting stronger with every passing month, infecting more people and throwing up different symptoms across different age groups.

There is also another recurring issue which makes scientists and doctors think that much like the flu, coronavirus, too may develop into a seasonal infection and come back after a slow lull.

The virus will kick in a lot of changes for sure in the way we live, commute, or work. But right now, for the long run, the only thing that can help lower down the spread is practising effective social distancing and sanitation where possible.

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