For the European disease agency, we must prepare for the virus to stay with us

The world must prepare for the coronavirus to remain “among us” for a long time despite vaccines, the director of the European disease agency warned on Friday in an interview with AFP, also calling for time to be kept. restrictions in place in Europe.

“Now it seems more likely that it will stay” rather than go away, said Andrea Ammon, director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), an EU agency.

“He seems very well suited to humans. So we have to prepare for what’s left with us,” she added.

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“It wouldn’t be the first virus to stay with us forever, so that’s not an unusual feature for a virus,” said the head of the Stockholm-based European health agency.

While vaccines can drastically reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19, scientists do not yet know whether they also prevent the transmission of the virus, or to what extent.

How soon will it be clearer if vaccines stop transmission? According to Ms. Ammon, “It will take a few months. Studies are in place but you need a larger volume of people vaccinated to be able to follow.”

The variants, especially South African and Brazilian, complicate the situation because it is suspected that they may reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.

“The question is what this implies for the effectiveness of the vaccine,” said Ms. Ammon, pointing to the example of seasonal influenza, forcing vaccines to be adapted each year.

– Running the last kilometers –

“It is possible that the same thing will happen, or that at some point (the virus) stabilizes and we can use a vaccine for a long time,” she told AFP by videoconference. .

The ECDC director also called on the countries of the European Union to keep the restrictions currently in place, despite a decrease in cases in the majority of European states.

“It is still a mixed picture (…) We are not yet at the end of our sentences”, she affirmed, pointing out that all the States of the Union – with the exception of Finland – were still in a “serious” epidemiological situation according to ECDC criteria.

The Covid-19 variants present in Europe (AFP / Archives – Bertille LAGORCE)

“Everyone is fed up with measurements, but when you run a long-distance race (…) you have to run the last few kilometers,” she pleaded.

The number of new daily cases across Europe is currently around 150,000, up from around 250,000 a month ago, according to official data compiled by AFP.

Any relaxation of the measurements should be done in a “gradual” way, “and it is only when you observe that the cases remain stable or go down further that you can take a step further,” she advised.

Faced with a shortage of vaccines aggravated by delays in delivery, the European Union experienced a sluggish start to its vaccination campaign, which began at the end of December.

According to the latest official data tally on Friday, only 3.0% of the EU population had received at least one dose, and 1.4% both, with a total of 20 million doses administered.

The Commission, whose management has been widely criticized, has set itself the objective of vaccinating 70% of the adult population by “the end of summer”.

“Everyone is aiming for this, all efforts are in this direction,” said Ms. Ammon, when asked whether the goal seemed credible to her.

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