According to experts, Covid could be completely eliminated in the future in a newly published study.
A report in the online journal BMJ Global Health has suggested that it may be easier to eradicate Covid compared to polio, although the study suggests that fighting the new virus will be more difficult than smallpox.
The paper describes eradication as “the permanent reduction in the global incidence of infections caused by a particular pathogen as a result of targeted efforts”.
The specialists examined how vaccines, public health measures, and the collective global effort towards the same eradication goal will help accelerate this process.
However, the study found that there will be two main challenges; Ensuring a high level of international vaccination protection and ensuring that countries react quickly to new variants that evade immunity.
Unpacking their results, the authors claimed, “Although our analysis is a preliminary effort with various subjective components, it appears to bring the eradicability of Covid-19 into the realm of possibility, especially in terms of technical feasibility.”
The new paper, titled “We Should Not Rule Out the Possibility of COVID-19 Eradication: Comparisons to Smallpox and Polio,” indicated that eradication has been achieved and sustained across the Asia-Pacific region for an extended period of time.
Dimensions via Getty ImagesWidespread vaccination programs and the wearing of masks are said to help prevent the virus from spreading
What do smallpox, polio and Covid have in common?
Both smallpox and polio are infectious viruses that have been largely eradicated from the world by vaccination programs.
Smallpox was eradicated as early as 1980, while two out of three types of poliovirus were also eradicated from the world’s population.
The authors looked at the three viruses and compared the various factors that normally affect the spread of a disease.
By examining a three-point scoring system for 17 variables, including lifelong immunity, vaccine availability, and the economic and social impact of the infection, they estimated that Covid could be eradicated.
Smallpox averaged 2.7 on the authors’ scoring system, making it the easiest of the three diseases because it has the highest total number.
Covid then received a score of 1.6 while polio had an average score of 1.5, which according to this study is the hardest disease to eradicate.
So what’s the catch?
The report indicated that unlike smallpox and polio, a handful of technical factors play a role.
Poor vaccine uptake and the possibility of more transmissible variants that could bypass immunity and overtake global vaccination programs can make Covid eradication more difficult than smallpox and polio.
However, the optimistic report added, “Of course there are limits to viral evolution so we can expect the virus to eventually peak and new vaccines to be developed.”
The authors – Nick Wilson, Osman D. Mansoor, Matthew J. Boyd, Amanda Kvalsvig, and Michael G. Baker – further noted that the high upfront costs of vaccination and maintaining or upgrading the health system, and addressing “vaccine nationalism”, too delay global extermination.
The study was concerned about the “government-sponsored anti-scientific aggression” that has emerged in some parts of the world, such as the US, along with the lesser problem of the virus’ persistence in animal reservoirs.
The study also said there is a global will to fight the infection, which will aid the eradication process.
Introducing public health measures like border controls, mask-wearing, social distancing and contract tracking could also help eradicate Covid – these tools have never been used on smallpox and polio.
The study concluded: “Taken together, these factors could mean that an ‘expected value’ analysis could ultimately assess that the benefits outweigh the costs, even if eradication takes years and carries a significant risk of failure.”
However, the authors admit that their study needs more in-depth research and that the World Health Organization – or a coalition of national agencies – needs to formally examine the possibility of Covid eradication.
via Associated PressA COVID-19 vaccination center in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco, California on February 8, 2021. (AP Photo / Haven Daley, File)
Other scientists claim Covid is here to stay
A poll by the science magazine Nature found that most people in the industry believe the virus is not going anywhere anytime soon.
She asked more than 100 immunologists, infectious disease researchers, and virologists working on the pandemic if they believed it could be eradicated earlier this year.
Almost 90 percent of respondents said Covid is likely to become endemic, meaning it will keep popping up in the world for years to come.
University of Minnesota epidemiologist Michael Osterholm told Nature, “Eradicating this virus from the world now is like trying to plan a stepping stone to the moon. It’s unrealistic. “
Nevertheless, more than a third of those surveyed supported the idea that a few Covid-free regions could be established.
Oxford University epidemiologist Christopher Dye said, “I think Covid is being eliminated in some countries but with an ongoing (and possibly seasonal) risk of reintroduction in places where vaccination and public health measures are not good enough were.”