World Health Organization emergencies director Dr. Michael Ryan suggested on Wednesday that there is a possibility that the coronavirus may never truly disappear, becoming endemic, like HIV and the flu.
While it’s too early to say what the future of the virus holds for the world, leaders from the WHO suggested that it’s impossible to predict when the threat of the virus will disappear.
“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away,” Dr. Ryan said. “HIV has not gone away but we've come to terms with the virus and we've found the therapies and we have found the prevention methods and people don't feel as scared as they did before and we're offering life - long healthy lives - to people with HIV.”
Dr. Ryan also drew a comparison between the coronavirus to measles, pointing out that children in developing nations still become infected from the disease despite an effective vaccine. Dr. Ryan said that world health leaders lacked the will and determination to deliver a measles vaccine across the world.
“Before we began responding to this event on the 31st of December, we were heavily involved and had teams in the Western Pacific working on measles,” he said. “At that time every single ventilator - and we've learnt about ventilators, all of us around the world, in the last... A lot of people talk about ventilators. I think there were 14 ventilators in Western Samoa at that time and all 14 were occupied by young children who had a devastating disease. It was called measles and they weren't vaccinated against that disease.”
Dr. Ryan said it will be important for a vaccine to be widely available.
"If we do find a highly effective vaccine that we can distribute to everyone who needs it in the world we may have a shot at eliminating this virus but that vaccine will have to highly effective, it will have to be made available to everyone and we will have to use it," he said.
While not offering a prediction on whether the coronavirus would become endemic, WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove agreed that it will take time for the world to deal with the virus’ threat.
“I think we need to get into this mindset that it's going to take some time to come out of this pandemic, whatever that looks like, including the lifting of these measures in a slow - in a staggered way which will differ based on the country itself,” Dr. van Kerkhove said. “You may see a lifting in some parts of the country where it's staying in place in others.: