The coronavirus transmission risk remains high, warned the World Health Organization during a meeting of its emergency committee.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the COVID-19 pandemic is a “once-in-a-century health crisis” with effects that will be felt for “decades to come.”

The health crisis already taught us that some COVID-19 patients will take weeks or even months to recover and may sustain internal damage from the infection that could lead to long-lasting medical conditions.

The deadly coronavirus is here to stay, even if vaccines are widely available. It’s still very early to tell how long Coronavirus immunity lasts, but infectious disease experts think the new virus will behave just like other human coronaviruses. That means reinfection could be possible as soon as six to twelve months after the first bout, and vaccine protection will be limited without regular booster shots. Even if vaccines are approved this fall or winter, it will be months until public immunization campaigns can start in earnest.

The initial vaccine supply will not meet demand, as the entire world might need 15 billion doses to inoculate everyone — and some people will always resist vaccines, while others are in remote regions that may not be accessible. Therefore, it will be years before a large percentage of the world’s population is vaccinated against COVID-19, and that’s assuming the current candidates are effective. Other drugs are also in human trials and they could provide new effective therapies to prevent COVID-19 complications or death.

While the WHO and Tedros have seen plenty of criticism in the past few months for the way they handled the pandemic in the first weeks and the closeness to China, the organization is still the world’s only health body that can coordinate the global effort to fight the new virus.

WHO warning or not, it’s pretty clear that some COVID-19 patients will experience the side effects of their first encounter with COVID-19 for years or even decades to come. We’re just in the first year of the pandemic and it’s likely that scientists will have a better idea of the medical effects of COVID-19 on the entire body in the near future. Add to that the economic and social hardships, and it’s easy to see there’s no simple way out of the health crisis. The coronavirus will not just disappear one day, as some people in high places foolishly said.

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