Scientific consultant, writer, and editor, Jennie Lavine, initiated a study to understand what shape the coronavirus pandemic will take ten years from now.
Lavine and the team stated that data from four endemic human coronaviruses, which circulate globally and cause only mild symptoms, may hold some answers.
Their analysis of the immunological and epidemiological data for these viruses helped them develop a model to predict the trajectory of SARS-CoV-2 as it becomes endemic.
Most importantly, the authors said, their model incorporates distinct components of immunological protection–susceptibility to reinfection, weakening of the disease after reinfection, and transmissibility of the virus after reinfection–that each wane differently.
Lavine suggested that endemic SARS-CoV-2 may become a disease of early childhood, where the first infection occurs between 3 and 5 years old, and the disease itself would be mild.
Older individuals could still become infected, but their childhood infections would provide immune protection against severe disease.
The researchers said that how fast this shift comes depends on how fast the virus spreads and what kind of immune response the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines induce.
If the vaccines induce short-lived protection against becoming reinfected but reduce the severity of the disease, as is the case with other endemic coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 may become endemic more quickly, the authors noted.
The authors further added that if primary infections of children are mild when the virus becomes endemic, widespread vaccination may not be necessary. But if primary infections become severe in children, as in the case of more deadly but contained coronaviruses such as MERS, childhood vaccinations should be continued.
The findings of the study were published in the journal American Association for the Advancement of Science.