History teaches: What will happen if a coronavirus vaccine is not found?

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There is a scenario that much of humanity refuses to consider: Never detect the Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus vaccine, as has happened with other viruses in the past.

As dozens of countries suffer from the coronavirus pandemic and billions of people see their lives plunged into uncertainty, the scientific community is struggling to make ends meet: to find the right vaccine against the deadly virus.

However, there is a scenario, clearly worse, that much of humanity refuses to consider: Never discover the vaccine for the corona Sars-Cov-2, as has happened with other viruses in the past.

In this case, as reported by CNN in an extensive post, societies should learn to live with the virus. Cities will be forced to open gradually, but many freedoms that we previously considered self-evident will be curtailed for the sake of public health. Tests and contact tracking will become part of our daily routine in the short term, and in many countries, a return to mandatory self-restraint could be re-imposed at any time.

It has happened before

This is a possibility that political leaders rarely mention in their public speeches, as they choose to present themselves as optimistic, emphasizing that scientists around the world have focused on the discovery of the vaccine. But the possibility of never finding a vaccine is something that is taken very seriously by many experts because it has happened before. Many times.

“For some viruses, we still don’t have vaccines,” he said. David Navarro, a professor of international health at Imperial College London, who also serves as a special envoy for the World Health Organization on Covid-19 disease issues. “We cannot assume with certainty that a vaccine will be discovered or that, even if detected, it will pass all efficacy and safety tests.”

According to him, it is necessary for all societies to be properly prepared so that they can defend themselves against the corona, considering it a permanent threat so that social and economic activity can continue with the virus.

However, most experts are convinced that a vaccine for Covid-19 will eventually develop in part because, unlike other diseases – such as malaria or AIDS – the coronavirus does not mutate rapidly.

But even if the vaccine is discovered at the end of the next 18 months, it will be an unprecedented achievement. “Never before have we accelerated the process for a vaccine in one year to 18 months,” Dr. explains to CNN. Peter Hotz, Rector of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Pharmacy, Houston.

“That doesn’t mean it’s unlikely, but it will be a truly heroic feat,” he said, adding that people need both Plan A and Plan B.

History teaches: What will happen if a coronavirus vaccine is not found?

When vaccines are not effective

In 1984, the Secretary-General of the US Department of Health and Human Services announced that scientists had successfully identified the virus, later called HIV, and estimated that a vaccine would be ready for testing in two years at most.

Nearly four decades later, and after some 32 million deaths worldwide, people are still waiting for an HIV vaccine. Instead of making a discovery, Heckler’s assessment was followed by the fear and social exclusion of a generation of gay men in Western countries.

For many years, a positive diagnosis was not just a death sentence but ensured that the person diagnosed had spent the last few months abandoned by his community, while doctors discussed in medical journals whether HIV patients deserved the effort. to be saved.

However, the research did not stop in 1980. In 1997, Bill Clinton challenged the United States to discover the vaccine within a decade. Fourteen years later, scientists said it took at least another ten years.

The difficulties in finding the vaccine were due to the very nature of HIV / AIDS. “The flu can and does change from one year to the next, so last year’s immunity doesn’t cover us the next year. HIV does this every time, in every infection, ”explains Paul Offit, a paediatrician and infectious disease specialist who co-invented the Rotavirus vaccine.

“It’s still mutating in us, so it’s like you’ve been infected with thousands of different HIV strains. And as it transforms, it cripples the immune system, “he said.

Unlike HIV, the Sars-Cov-2 virus does not mutate at this level, which makes experts generally very optimistic about the discovery of a vaccine.

History teaches: What will happen if a coronavirus vaccine is not found?

But there are other diseases that have confused the scientific community. Each year, dengue fever strikes about 400,000 people, according to the WHO, and for decades doctors have been unable to find a vaccine.

In 2017, a large-scale effort was thwarted when it was found that the symptoms of the disease were getting worse. Similarly, it is very difficult to develop vaccines for rhinos and adenoviruses that, like coronaviruses, cause cold symptoms. There is only one vaccine to treat two adenovirus strains, and none of them is commercially available.

Plan B

If efforts for Sars-Cov-2 have the same outcome, the virus could stay with us for many years, but the experience and response to HIV and AIDS offers a framework for living with the disease.

“In HIV, we have managed to turn the disease into a chronic disease with anti-virals. We have achieved what we always hoped to do with cancer, “says Offit. “It’s not the death penalty that was in the 1980s.” The development of the daily PrEP pill has since protected thousands of people.

History teaches: What will happen if a coronavirus vaccine is not found?

What will life be like without a vaccine?

If a vaccine is not developed, life will not continue as it is, but it will not return to normal quickly. Lockdown is neither economically viable nor politically feasible, Neil says. “We need other ways to control it.”

This means that as countries reluctantly come out of quarantine and market freeze, experts will push governments to introduce new, unusual lifestyles and interactions to save time until Covid-19 disease is eradicated from a vaccine.

“It is absolutely crucial that we work to be prepared for Covid,” Navarro said, referring to a new “social contract” where citizens in each country will begin to live “normally” while taking personal responsibility for limiting themselves. symptoms or come into contact with a possible case.

This means that the culture of going to work with a mild cold or cough will end once and for all. Experts also predict a permanent shift in telework and work from home, at least for a few days a week. This will probably be the new routine for office workers and companies will need to follow a rolling schedule so that their spaces are never unnecessarily crowded.

“We need to be more discriminating with the help we render toward other people,” he said. “A collective agreement of survival and well-being against the threat of the virus.” “It will be difficult to reach the poorest nations,” he said, adding that developing countries would have to find ways to deal with it, he said, describing refugee and migrant accommodation structures and their camps as “high concerns”.

In the short term, Navarro believes that an extensive examination and tracking program will be needed to allow life with the corona, a program that will overshadow any other attempt in the past and that will be delayed even for countries such as the United States and Britain.

“It would be crucial to have a ready-made health system with the ability to track, diagnose in the workplace, monitor and communicate in a timely manner to impose social distancing measures,” Hodges added. “It’s possible, but it’s complicated and we’ve never done it before.”

As time goes on, the debate returns to the issue of herd immunity that has been achieved when more than 70% of a country’s citizens have been exposed to the virus. “This somewhat reduces the spread,” says Offit. “Although any protection of the population is caused by natural selection, it is not the best way to achieve immunity.” The best is the vaccine.”

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