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This Monday the 9th March 20, 2020, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, speaks during a press conference on updates to COVID-19 at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland (Salvatore Di Nolfi / Keystone via AP, file)

World Health Organization officials predict that the “fate” of the COVID-19 virus will become endemic, suggesting that despite global vaccination efforts, it could continue to spread through the population at a constant rate

However, some Canadian scientists say the future of the novel coronavirus is far from set in stone, noting that there are a myriad of factors that could affect the course of the infectious disease

At a press conference Tuesday, several senior WHO officials warned that developing COVID-19 vaccines was no guarantee of eradication of the virus, suggesting that a more realistic goal would be to reduce the risk of transmission to manageable levels reduce

“Right now, the fate of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) appears to be becoming endemic,” said David Heymann, London-based chairman of the WHO’s strategic and technical advisory group on the risk of infection

“But its ultimate fate is not yet known. Fortunately, we have tools to save lives and these, combined with good public health, will allow us to learn to live with COVID-19”

According to the US.At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a disease is endemic when it is consistently or predictably prevalent in a population or region. For example, chickenpox is endemic in much of North America and is steadily spreading among young children

DR Gerald Evans, chairman of the Infectious Diseases Department at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont agrees that the COVID-19 virus is on track to follow several other human coronaviruses that have become endemic and mostly cause mild respiratory symptoms such as colds

Evans said some evolutionary biologists believe that after jumping from animal to human populations, these endemic coronaviruses mutated over centuries in order to strike a pathogenic balance between ensuring effective person-to-person transmission without being so virulent as to cause the disease Kill host

He believes the COVID-19 virus might follow a similar path of development, but said the process could be compressed over a shorter period of time since “vaccine-induced herd immunity” would narrow the pool of potential hosts to find more transmissible, but less virulent to favor versions of the disease

“By using vaccines, we can speed up the process of population adaptation to the new virus so that we don’t have to wait 100 years for it to become some kind of inferior endemic coronavirus that causes cold syndrome worldwide in winter”

However, Jean-Paul Soucy, PhD student in epidemiology at the University of Toronto, says that while the COVID-19 virus doesn’t seem to be going away as quickly, there are too many unknowns to predict what the disease will be like on the line / p>

“I think it’s fair to say that (the COVID-19 virus) will continue to exist somewhere in the world for the foreseeable future,” Soucy said. “But how much it will directly affect us remains to be seen”

While some pathogens mutate to make them less deadly, Soucy said that not every virus does

The gradual distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the world is likely to affect the geography of the disease, Soucy said

In addition, it is still unclear whether the first batch of vaccine will curb the spread of the virus or just prevent the development of symptoms

With so many questions remaining, Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist at the University of Manitoba, claims that the possibility that the COVID-19 virus will become endemic is not a “foregone conclusion” “

“I know it’s bleak at the moment,” said Kindrachuk. “But this is certainly not the first time that these population groups have found themselves in this situation”

Vaccination campaigns have eradicated viruses in the past, he said, citing decades of efforts to eradicate smallpox

It’s hard to say if that’s possible for COVID-19, Kindrachuk said, since the virus is believed to have jumped from animals to humans and there is always the potential for additional cross-species “spillover” “

However, Kindrachuk fears that high-spirited predictions that COVID-19 will stay here could spark complacency in a pandemic-weary public if Canadians were to work towards the ultimate goal of stopping the virus from spreading

“We cannot come to terms with a certain result at the moment,” said Kindrachuk. “We still have a lot of the result in our hands”

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World News – CA – WHO predicts COVID-19 will become endemic, but some experts are less sure