The World Health Organization on Wednesday warned that the novel coronavirus may never go away and become an endemic – like HIV – that the world must learn to live with. As the world gradually eases the stringent measures it took to stem the outbreak’s spread, the WHO says the virus may never be wiped out completely.
“It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” said WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan in an online briefing. “HIV has not gone away, but we have come to terms with the virus,” he added.
Calling the prospect of getting rid of the disease even if a vaccine is found a ‘massive moonshot’, Ryan said the world still has some control over how it can cope with the outbreak. He stressed that extreme caution is needed to avoid new Covid-19 outbreaks.
“I think it is important we are realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear. I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be,” he added.
A potential vaccine and its efficacy
On Tuesday, the White House health advisor Dr Anthony Fauci cast doubts on the vaccine being effective against the virus even once it is developed. “There’s no guarantee that the vaccine is actually going to be effective,” he said.
According to Fauci, there were two worries surrounding the development of a potential SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus) vaccine. First, it may not work against the virus; second, it may backfire and make the virus even stronger.
In the past, Fauci said, there have been vaccines that produced a suboptimal response. “When the person gets exposed, they actually have an enhanced pathogenesis of the disease, which is always worrisome. So we want to make sure that that doesn’t happen,” he added.
According to The World Health Organization, over 100 vaccines are in the works globally with many human trials already underway. But experts have emphasized the difficulties of finding ones that are effective against coronaviruses.
It’s noteworthy that many illnesses, such as measles, still haven’t been completely eradicated in spite of their vaccines existing.
A looming mental health crisis
A report by the WHO’s mental health department to the UN cautioned against another looming crisis that is of mental health. The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil – they all cause or could cause psychological distress, said the report.
The department director of the global health body, Devora Kestel, said the world could expect to see an upsurge in the severity of mental illness, including amongst children, young people and healthcare workers.
The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently,” she said.