COVID-19 projections from the disease expert Chris Murray from University of Washington have been followed worldwide and now his assumptions about the course of COVID-19 are changing.
Murray had been hopeful about how several countries developed vaccines can help masses achieve the much needed immunity. But unfortunately the data from South Africa indicated the rapidly-spreading variant of the virus can cancel out the effect of the vaccine and lead to hitting the people who had been infected earlier.
“After seeing the data I couldn’t sleep,” said Murray, director of the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Murray is currently updating his model to account for variants’ ability to get away from natural immunity. “When will it end?” he asked himself as he expects the model to provide new projections soon.
Many of the specialists who are closely keeping track of the pandemic stated how discovery of two vaccines with 95% efficacy against COVID-19 last year sparked a hope of containment of the virus. However, seeing trials in South Africa and Brazil has wrecked that optimism. The specialists now believe that the virus is here to stay as an endemic to cause a significant burden of illness and death in future.
So, people are expected to continue taking safety measures such as routine mask-wearing and avoiding crowded places.
In an interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to U.S. President Joe Biden stated that: “I still would want to wear a mask if there was a variant out there.”
The Worst Case Scenario
As the new vaccines still seem to prevent hospitalizations and death even in the case of new variants, the scientists including Murray also believe that the scenario could improve. Moreover, many vaccine developers are working on vaccines that could offer a high level of efficacy against the variants.
Murray also mentioned that if the South African variant, or similar variants continue to spread at the same pace, the number of COVID-19 cases resulting in hospitalization or death this coming winter could be 4 times higher than the flu. In a worst-case scenario, as many as 200,000 U.S. deaths due to COVID-19 over the winter period in 2021.