Story at a glance
- In a press conference, WHO leaders say COVID-19 won’t be eradicated despite mass vaccination and booster campaigns.
Despite innovations in vaccine development and research, the COVID-19 virus is not going away and will likely circulate through society in a similar way to influenza, officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a press conference on Tuesday.
CNBC reports that experts, including Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, told reporters in a press briefing that COVID-19 will continue to evolve and won’t be eradicated anytime soon.
“I think this virus is here to stay with us and it will evolve like influenza pandemic viruses, it will evolve to become one of the other viruses that affects us,” he said.
This comes as the delta variant, a mutation of the original COVID-19 strain, now accounts for the majority of new cases in the U.S. Clinical data has shown that immunity offered by the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines wanes over time, prompting the need for booster shots to further curtail surges in new infections.
Ryan doubled down on his stance, saying COVID-19 will not simply disappear with increased vaccinations and preventative efforts.
“People have said we’re going to eliminate or eradicate the virus,” Ryan said. “No we’re not, very, very unlikely.”
Booster shots — an additional dosage of the vaccines — are slated to be ready by Sept. 20, officials estimate. Recent reporting suggests that federal regulators may need more time for thorough research to come out on booster shot health impacts, and notes that Pfizer may be the only booster shot available initially.
The WHO has staunchly opposed the distribution of booster vaccines by wealthier countries like the U.S., when other underdeveloped nations are still struggling to give their citizens initial doses.
“I have called for a moratorium on boosters, at least until the end of this month to allow those countries that are furthest behind to catch up,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week.