History Shows Covid-19 Vaccine Might not Fully Eradicate Disease

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Vaccines for the global Covid-19 virus have been on their way across the world over the last week.  Throughout history vaccines have proven to be the most effective way at eradicating a disease, they do however take time. 

Walter Orenstein, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta and former head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s immunization program said, “I would be surprised to see an actual eradication of this virus now that it’s all over the world.”  He continued, “I’d be shocked, given how contagious it is.”

To many experts, the parallels to the smallpox vaccine are apparent. The WHO tried to completely eradicate the disease in 1959 however the program didn’t see real results until there was more funding eight years later.  But perhaps a better comparison would be polio in terms of the illness level.  People avoided getting the polio vaccine because they did not believe they were vulnerable considering that only a minority of infected actually fell severely ill.

Anthony Fauci said, “We’ve got to convince people to take the vaccine.  If you have a highly effective vaccine and only 50% of the people take it, you’re not going to have the impact that you’d need to essentially bring a pandemic down to such a low level that it’s no longer threatening society. And that’s the goal of a vaccine, the same way we did with measles, the same way we did with polio, the same way the world did with smallpox.”

Supply and demand are already an issue in the United States, 138,000 people were given the vaccine in the UK last week, and Europe has yet to begin their vaccination process.  Mark Suzman, chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said, “It’s really, really, really complicated to make sure we get those vaccines produced and distributed in an equitable way globally, for both moral and economic reasons.”

Rajeev Venkayya, president of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s vaccines business said about supply and demand of the vaccine, “It is more complicated than usual because for the first time in history we’ll be introducing multiple vaccines against the same target at the same time.” Venkayya says that if countries prioritize health care workers and the most vulnerable people it will reduce deaths considerably, but, “transmission won’t go down dramatically in the beginning. It’s going to take time to get to a sufficient level of vaccine-driven population immunity before we begin to dampen transmission.”

Venkayya predicts the virus will likely never be fully eradicated. “Why? Because there will always be a large proportion of susceptible population in the community.”

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