What will the scenario be like in 2022? Will we return to our normal lives or will we still be trapped in continued restrictions, limited by measures to contain the infection?
While in the previous article (Part I) we addressed the scenario in the short-term, in this second article we’ll take a look at a possible scenario during the medium-term.
COVID-19 in the medium-term: how long do immunizations last?
If we could transport ourselves to the beginning of 2022, we might think that the situation in Italy and Europe may be that a large part of the population will be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2.
How widespread? I think a plausible assumption could be about 70% of the population. Who will be missing? Probably the youngest and then all those who for various reasons could not or would not be vaccinated. In addition, we must consider that there will also be many newborns who (for obvious reasons) will not be vaccinated immediately.
We will therefore be close to herd immunity, but the most important question will be just: “How long does the immunization last?”
Looking ahead to next Winter, either sporadic spot-checks or sweeping ones will be instituted on vaccine recipients, in order to verify immunization status; that is, the presence of neutralizing antibodies that are still active. Diagnostic companies that in 2020 have rapidly developed kits for the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 based on qPCR, will engage (in fact, they’re already doing so) in the marketing of kits for the detection of neutralizing antibodies. They will do so both with kits for hospital use and with rapid kits that can also be used in pharmacies — or at your Doctor’s office.
What can we do if the virus mutates (to the point of evading immunity)?
In order for SARS-CoV-2 to survive, it will need to continue to mutate and create new variants that can re-infect people who are already infected — or those who’ve been vaccinated. As with the seasonal flu, we’ll need to have a vaccine booster-shot.
In this case, the fastest and least expensive vaccines to develop are those that rely on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology. By changing a few links in the mRNA chain, it’ll be possible to have a new effective vaccine.
Will we (still) have emergency situations?
The severity of the spread of infections will be influenced by the effectiveness of the vaccines, how many people are vaccinated, how long the vaccines maintain immunity and how the virus evolves. It can be expected that in a year’s time hospitals will not be in distress (as they are today), and even sick people will demonstrate milder symptoms, but outbreaks of COVID-19 (or COVID-21!) will still be there, especially during the winter months.
Finally, we can’t overlook the fact that not all countries will have the same pace in vaccination and that the Coronavirus may evolve in different ways, as it’s already shown with the UK, South African and Brazilian variants.
Both Business and Vacation trips, while today very limited, in countries with low vaccination rates and with outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2, in a year’s time could be the fuses that will reignite the infection and lead to the implementation of restrictive containment measures in well-defined locations.
This post is also available in: Italiano