When White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci warned in 2020 that living with the coronavirus was going to be our new normal, he meant it.
“We’re not going to eradicate the virus from the face of the Earth,” Fauci told Yahoo Finance in an interview on Tuesday. “I don’t believe we’re even going to eliminate it from this country to the tune of getting zero cases.”
Despite earlier estimates pointing to a possible end to the pandemic by 2024, along with assumptions that all countries would be fully vaccinated by then, poor adherence to vaccinations and public health mitigation measures has resulted in an ongoing pandemic that is nowhere near under control.
Just 67.4% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, and only 48.5% of those fully vaccinated have received their first booster dose, according to the CDC’s latest data.
The constant mutation of the virus only exacerbated the issue as it continued to circulate the globe. Other viruses like measles, smallpox, and polio don’t have such quick mutations even after decades — which is why it has been easy to keep them from spreading widely through childhood vaccinations.
Instead, Fauci, who also serves as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), hopes that at least by 2024, the circulation of the virus is low enough “that it does not disrupt … the economy, our ability to interact socially with each other, schools, and things like that.”
Lowering the bar
Despite an upcoming rollout of COVID-19 boosters targeting the most recent dominating sub-variant, BA.5, the U.S. is on a path to continue to be impacted by infections.
It’s why Fauci is certain that a new generation of vaccines, delivered through the nose – where the virus enters — is key to stronger protection.
Initially, the bar was set very high on protection against infection by the mRNA vaccines’ clinical studies —like those of Pfizer/BioNTech (PFE/BNTX) and Moderna (MRNA). Over time, however, the bar has been lowered to protection against death and severe disease.
As schools reopen and the world returns to some semblance of normal, a new variant is potentially lurking just around the corner. With infections still possible, the impact of the virus on the body is also an issue.
Even if the number of cases do go down, another long-lasting issue is that of long COVID, which includes lingering effects on the body like fatigue, dizziness, and heart palpitations. The government has only just started to conduct studies to figure out the impact of long COVID.
A recent study from the Brookings Institution noted that between 2-4 million people could be out of work as a result of the condition.
“We are still learning a lot about it,” Fauci said, adding: “We know that a disturbing percentage of people [who recover] can be afflicted with long COVID, which is very variable in its manifestations.”
Follow Anjalee on Twitter @AnjKhem
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