Story at a glance

  • Soumya Swaminathan of the World Health Organization estimates that the coronavirus will be under control in about four to five years.
  • This is dependent on a vaccine, but the virus will not simply disappear.

Officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) say it may take up to five years to successfully manage the coronavirus.

Speaking with the Financial Times' Global Boardroom webinar, Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, said on Wednesday, "I would say in a four to five-year timeframe, we could be looking at controlling this,” as quoted in CNBC

Globally, more than 4.3 million people have contracted the COVID-19 infection, resulting in 298,185 deaths, per Johns Hopkins CSSE data


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Swaminathan noted that the development of a successful vaccine will likely be the “best way out” of the pandemic, CNBC quotes from the webinar discussion. 

She also warned that there is concern regarding the safety, production and equitable distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. Regardless, Swaminathan said that the creation of a successful vaccine combined with proactive confinement measures were two key factors that would determine how long the pandemic will last. 

The importance and uncertainty surrounding a coronavirus vaccine was also discussed by Anthony Fauci, the U.S.’s top infectious disease expert, during his Senate testimony earlier this week. 

Fauci said that while there are currently eight different coronavirus vaccines in clinical trials, efficacy remains “the big unknown.”

While it will likely take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to successfully develop a vaccine, Fauci is fairly confident that at least one will work.

“Given the way the body responds to viruses of this type, I'm cautiously optimistic that we will with one of the candidates get an efficacy signal,” he said.

Other WHO experts have also said that the virus is unlikely to simply disappear, even with the development of a vaccine.

BBC reports that Mike Ryan, the WHO emergencies director, said that even if a vaccine is created, controlling the virus will require a "massive effort."

"It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away," Ryan reportedly said during a virtual press conference.


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Published on May 14, 2020