In a Thursday interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais, Dr. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, said that the novel coronavirus may never go away.
Per Newsweek, which published a translation of the interview, Lipkin said that the public will have to adapt and learn how to “live the rest of our lives with this virus.”
“It is going to be a recurring problem. I don’t think life will ever be completely normal again.”
Lipkin said that it is likely future generations will be vaccinated against COVID-19, but noted that additional booster doses may be necessary. The expert described the progress in vaccine development as “staggering,” suggesting that vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer will be able to significantly reduce the spread of the virus.
However, Lipkin pointed out that there could be logistical challenges and that distribution will not be easy.
“We will be able to distribute these vaccines in most of Europe and the U.S. But getting them to developing countries will be a daunting challenge,” he said.
Pfizer and BioNTech announced earlier this month that their candidate is 95 percent effective at stopping coronavirus, while Moderna said that its mRNA-1273 had an efficacy of 94.5 percent. However, neither of the vaccines can be stored at standard refrigeration temperatures, which could be a major issue in some parts of the world.
Achieving “global group immunity” is the end goal, according to Lipkin, who explained that between 60 and 80 percent of the world’s population needs to be immune before normalcy is restored.
Governments across the globe have implemented public health measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, some more successfully than others. China, where the virus is thought to have originated, has been very successful in controlling the pandemic.
Lipkin — who assisted the Chinese government during the 2003 SARS epidemic and advised Saudi Arabia during the MERS outbreak — suggested that it is unrealistic to expect western governments to achieve the same results.
“In China, if the government decides to do something, it is done. It is not like in Spain or the United States where there can be debate about confinements and closures,” he said.
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The expert concluded the interview on a more optimistic note, saying that the coronavirus crisis “has also demonstrated our ability to respond with science, compassion and a common goal.”
According to the population data site Worldometers, more than 61 million coronavirus cases have been recorded in the world so far and nearly 1.5 million people have died from complications caused by the disease.