Many families have gone through sad days during the past weeks as a result of losing a loved one who was infected with the coronavirus (Covid-19) and it may be really difficult to imagine the future with the intensive care units being filled again if people do not continue to adhere to precautionary measures, in addition to receiving the vaccine. Somehow the pandemic will end one way or the other... It will!
However, when a sufficient number of people acquire some immunity through vaccination or infection - vaccination is preferred - this virus may move to a stage called an endemic (meaning it will be a disease that is permanently present in a certain area or populated group, but is stable), were it won't be eradicated, but also it won't turn our lives around anymore. Perhaps at that point we will see fewer hospitalisations and fewer deaths from the coronavirus. Especially since the booster vaccination can restore and stimulate immunity periodically as well. Nevertheless, cases may continue to rise and fall in this scenario, may be seasonally, but the worst outcomes will undoubtedly be avoided.
Of course, we will all have to change our thinking about the coronavirus. This virus is not something we can avoid forever; we have to prepare for the possibility that all of us will be exposed in one way or another. Rather - and if I may say - this is something we have to live with as long as it does not affect healthcare as a whole and here I think we can do it .
In fact, it seems that the stage (endemicity) of this virus and its end game is quite clear, but how to reach it is less clear. This may be partly because that stage depends on us! As the possibility of the spread of the coronavirus - endemic - does not mean that we should abandon all precautions. The path to becoming endemic of the coronavirus will undoubtedly depend on how far the virus itself continues to mutate.
We're now where we thought we had to be a year ago. Vaccines still protect against serious diseases, as expected. In fact the virus will continue to spread, but fewer people will get sick enough to be hospitalised or die. Not to mention, as more people gain immunity through infection or vaccination, the coronavirus will try to find ways to evade that immunity as well. This is a natural consequence of living with a circulating virus .The flu virus also mutates every year in response to existing immunity. But in the endemic corona scenario, where many people have some immunity, the coronavirus will not be able to infect a large number of people and will not multiply several times in every person it infects.
On the other hand, the transmission of the coronavirus as a pandemic to an endemic virus is also psychological. When everyone has some immunity, a diagnosis of Covid-19 becomes as a routine as a diagnosis of influenza - not good news - but it is not a cause for fear, anxiety or embarrassment either. I believe that more importantly and realistically, the risks will be much smaller than they are now amid a Delta wave, but they will never go away.
At end, better vaccines and best treatments may well reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus and the experience may also lead people to take all respiratory viruses seriously, leading to permanent changes in mask-wearing and ventilation for instance. So when we get to the endemic stage of the coronavirus, it means finding a new, tolerable way to live with this virus. You will feel weird for a while and then it will be normal!
(The author is a physician, medical innovator and a writer)