Covid-19: Study argues global eradication of virus is "probably feasible

Covid-19: Estudo defende que erradicação global do vírus é “provavelmente viável”

Global eradication of covid-19 is "probably feasible," thanks to vaccination, public health measures, and global interest in controlling the pandemic, according to a new study.

For the signatories of the study published in BMJ Global Health, health policies and global interest as a result of the financial and social crises make eradication of the virus possible, but according to experts at the University of Otago Wellington (New Zealand), the main objectives are to ensure greater vaccination coverage, capable of responding quickly to variants.

"Although our analysis is preliminary, with several subjective elements, it appears to place the eradication of covid-19 within the realm of the possible, especially in terms of technical feasibility," say the authors of the study, which includes comparative data on technical, sociopolitical and economic factors of covid-19, polio and smallpox infections.

The researchers used a three-point scoring system for each of the 17 variables, including the availability of a safe and effective vaccine, lifetime immunity, the impact of public health measures, and effective government management of infection control.

Also the political and public concern with economic and social repercussions or the acceptance of restrictive measures were calculated.

The mean scores in the study totaled 2.7 for smallpox, 1.6 for covid-19, and 1.5 for polio.

Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980 and two of the three serotypes of poliovirus have also been eradicated globally.

Experts acknowledge that, relative to smallpox and polio, the technical challenges of covid-19 eradication include low vaccine uptake and the emergence of more transmissible variants.

"However, viral evolution has its limits. It is to be expected that the virus will eventually reach its maximum capacity and new vaccines will be designed," they argue.

The persistence of the virus in animal reservoirs may also thwart efforts, but it does not appear to be a serious problem, the researchers add.

On the other hand, the "unprecedented global interest in disease control and massive investment in pandemic vaccination" is highlighted.

Unlike smallpox and polio, covid-19 benefits from the additional impact of public health measures such as border control, social distancing, and the use of masks, which "can be very effective if [they are] deployed well."

Elimination of covid-19 has been achieved and sustained over long periods in several Asian regions, "providing proof [...] that global eradication is technically possible," they summarize.

The study identifies, among future challenges, achieving international cooperation to combat "vaccine nationalism."

Lusa Agency

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