Almost two years into the Covid-19 pandemic, an end may finally be in sight. Experts say that Covid will likely lose its pandemic status sometime in 2022, due largely to rising global vaccination rates and developments of antiviral Covid pills that could become more widespread next year.
Instead, the virus will likely become endemic, eventually fading in severity and folding into the backdrop of regular, everyday life. Various strains of influenza have followed a similar pattern over the past century or more, from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 to the swine flu pandemic in 2009. Once endemic, Covid won't dictate your daily decision-making as much, as billionaire health philanthropist Bill Gates described in his end-of-year blog post last week: "It won't be primary when deciding whether to work from the office or let your kids go to their soccer game or watch a movie in a theatre."
Endemic illnesses are always circulating throughout parts of the world, but tend to cause milder illness because more people have immunity from past infection or vaccination. You might get a cough and sniffles, but if you're up-to-date on your vaccinations, you'll be protected enough to prevent severe illness or hospitalization.
If the virus does become more seasonal, wearing a mask on public transit and indoors during Covid season could become the norm. Other virus-prevention strategies we ar by now familiar with, like regularly washing your hands and maintaining distancing practices in high-risk settings, could also stick around.
There's a chance you might need to get regular Covid boosters going forward. Some experts say that Covid vaccines could become an annual occurrence, similar to your flu shot. Especially if new Covid variants keep popping up, each year's booster can be specifically designed to fight whichever variant is dominant at the time. As long as large portions of the world remain unvaccinated, Covid will keep spreading and mutating, and that makes the pandemic's future timeline highly uncertain, even as experts broadly agree that Covid will eventually become an endemic and potentially seasonal disease.
That makes the mission the vaccinate the world the single-greatest task in the hands of world leaders as we enter the third year of the pandemic. This is the bit about tackling the pandemic that is most firmly in our hands, and hence the least we can do as an international community is to make sure we do it satisfactorily (see next story). Any failure in this regard that leads to prolonging the pandemic will have to be seen on a par with shameful episodes of the past, when countries have abdicated their responsibility and watched on as genocidal activities ravaged humanity in some corner of the Earth or the other. Our firmest resolve in the third year of the pandemic must be that we do not allow this to happen.
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