New study shows the path towards endemic COVID
The following article was published by the peer-reviewed journal Science last February 12, 2021. It was written by Jennie Lavigne, Ottar Bjornstad, and Ruston Antia.
According to the model created by the study, SARS-CoV-2 could join the ranks of mild, cold-causing human coronaviruses in the long run. The researchers say, “Our model, incorporating…components of immunity, recapitulates both the current severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection and the benign nature of HCoVs [human coronaviruses], suggesting that once the endemic phase is reached, and primary exposure is in childhood, SARS-CoV-2 may be no more virulent than the common cold.”
In this article, the researchers explore the various mechanisms on how endemicity will arise in the population. Some of the important insights in the study include the following:
- Longitudinal studies of SARS patients provide an opportunity to measure the durability of immune memory in the absence of re-exposure. We know that infection-blocking antibodies wane fast, but memory T-cells persist for much longer periods and confer protection. [A study about this has been published on this website, see New York Times: Immunity to coronavirus may last for years and New study found pre-existing SARS-CoV-2 immunity in general population]
- Strain variation and antibody escape may occur in endemic strains. However, the fact that symptoms are mild suggests that immunity induced previously by natural infection is nonetheless strong enough to prevent severe disease. Indeed, among HCoVs, frequent reinfections appear to boost immunity. However, the effect of strain variation may differ from vaccine-induced immunity, especially in light of the narrower epitope repertoire of many currently authorized vaccines.[An epitope is the part of an antigen that is recognized by the immune system, specifically by the antibodies. Current vaccines focus on mimicking the spike proteins produced by the SARS-CoV-2. If the pattern of spike proteins changes, then the vaccines will no longer work, as in the case of the South African variant. See Pro-vaccine immunologist: “I would probably prefer to have natural immunity” to understand this statement better.]
- If frequent boosting of immunity by ongoing virus circulation is required to maintain protection from pathology, then it may be best for the vaccine to mimic natural immunity insofar as preventing pathology without blocking ongoing virus circulation. Should the vaccine cause a major reduction in transmission, it might be important to consider strategies that target older individuals for whom infection can cause higher morbidity and mortality, while allowing natural immunity and transmission to be maintained in younger individuals [A similar proposal has been put forward by the Great Barrington Declaration, see The Great Barrington Declaration: Life must return to normal for the healthy, the vulnerable must be protected].
- Social distancing and an effective vaccine are critical for control during the virgin epidemic and the transition of out it, but once we enter the endemic phase [signified by the lowering of overall infection fatality ratio or IFR, and proliferation of mild disease], mass vaccination may no longer be necessary.
- The necessity for continual vaccination will depend on the age-dependence of the IFR. If primary infections of children are mild (as for SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2), continued vaccination may not be needed as primary cases recede to mild childhood sniffles.
Editor’s Note: This article is important for a number of reasons. First, it assures us that zero covid is IMPOSSIBLE. We must learn to live with the virus, and the insights they have mentioned above can help us do so.
Second, the article offers to us an idea of how we can use vaccination and non-pharmaceutical interventions appropriately. They remind us that vaccination (when they are guaranteed to be safe) is only a supplement, and must not be utilized as a replacement for our immune system.
Third, the article also reminds us that children need to be exposed to these viruses. Also, if the clinical outcome of the disease among children is mild (as it is today), then they must not be subjected to extreme measures, including vaccination as these could only cause new problems. This point is particularly important as more countries are now preparing to inoculate children with experimental vaccines.
Lastly, this article opens a very important question. If the measure of endemicity is low death rates and more mild diseases, is it possible that SARS-CoV-2 is already in this phase? In the Philippines, 95.3% of cases are mild or asymptomatic (as of May 12, 2021), with a majority of cases detected among young people. Current data also shows that recovery from COVID is high, at 93.6%. Meanwhile, around the world, we have seen from the data in Worldometers shows the same pattern. As of May 11, 2021, 86% of all COVID cases recover [CDC also confirms low IFR for COVID, see CDC updates planning scenarios, shows IFR lower than flu]. Very few children are infected, and when they are, they remain largely unaffected [this is probably one of the most established facts in terms of the SARS-CoV-2, see our articles on School and Children].
If SARS-CoV-2 is now endemic, then it means that all coronavirus measures being implemented today are unnecessary and disruptive and must end as soon as possible.
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