Moderna CEO, Stéphane Bancel believes we’re looking at another 12 to 18 months of COVID-19 hindering normal life—though a less severe form of the disease will likely circulate around the world “forever.”
At HIMSS21, the global health conference that took place in Las Vegas recently, Bancel went on to predict that booster shots may become a routine part of life for the foreseeable future, not unlike the annual winter flu and flu shots.
“The virus is never going to go away from the planet,” Bancel. said.
“The good news is the vaccines are working well at preventing hospitalization and severe disease.”
The emergence of new, more transmissible COVID variants is the primary reason we haven’t been able to eradicate the disease completely. Right now the Delta strain, which is more easily spread, is the most dominant strain in the U.S.
COVID-19 will likely be endemic
COVID-19 will likely prove to be an endemic disease, which means it will be present at all times in some capacity or another. That doesn’t mean it will continue to disrupt normal life to the degree it’s doing so now, though. For a start, continued vaccine rollouts will ensure that the majority of COVID-19 cases will not cause carriers to be hospitalized or die.
Moreover, reduced hospitalizations and death rates mean those who do experience severe COVID will be able to receive proper clinical care, because health systems will not be overwhelmed the way they were during the early days of the pandemic.
What needs to happen to make COVID manageable
There isn’t a strong consensus on the role booster shots will play in the overall recovery of the nation. While some medical experts believe that otherwise healthy populations should get a booster shot approximately six months after infection, others have made a strong case for natural immunity, or immunity to a virus that occurs after exposure to the virus.
Unvaccinated patients involved in the study who were previously infected with the novel coronavirus were not only suspected to be protected against COVID for longer periods of time than those who have “two-dose vaccine-induced immunity,” but they may also be less likely to develop symptomatic manifestations of the disease and to be hospitalized upon reinfection.
More discreetly, the authors of the report say that vaccinated participants were 27 times more likely to get a symptomatic COVID case than those with natural immunity from COVID.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published data suggesting fully vaccinated populations that get infected with COVID-19 carry a comparable amount of viral particles in their throat and nasal passages as unvaccinated individuals. This means that fully vaccinated people can still spread the Delta variant to others.
The problem with relying on natural immunity on its own as a meaningful answer to an impending endemic, with the case of COVID-19 specifically, is that there is no way to know beyond a reasonable doubt how it will manifest in the unvaccinated. This is especially true as the virus continues to change.
The status of booster shots
As of the time of this writing, booster shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine can now be officially administered to disproportionately affected adults in the U.S. — depending on age and medical history.
However, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky wants to widen the pool of candidates that are eligible for boosters to include those between the ages of 18 and 64 who are at increased risk of COVID-19 because of their workplaces in addition to long-term care facility residents.