Key Words: WHO official’s grim outlook on COVID-19: ‘This virus may never go away’

Key Words

Mike Ryan says it’s important to be ‘realistic,’ notes a vaccine would still take a ‘massive effort’ to distribute worldwide

World Health Organization Health Emergencies Program Director Michael Ryan speaks from the WHO headquarters in Geneva on March 300.


AFP/Getty Images


“This virus may never go away.”

That’s the grim reality that Mike Ryan, emergencies director for the World Health Organization, said Wednesday during a coronavirus briefing.

Speaking during a virtual news conference from Geneva, Ryan said the world should prepare for the possibility that a vaccine for COVID-19 will not be found. Even if one eventually is developed, it would still take a “massive effort” to distribute it worldwide and control the virus — a “massive moonshot.”

“It is important to put this on the table: This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” he said. “I think it is important we are realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear. I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be.”

Ryan said that one way or another, humanity may have to learn to cope with COVID-19. “HIV has not gone away — but we have come to terms with the virus,” he said, pointing out that while there is a vaccine for measles, it has not been eradicated, showing a vaccine does not automatically make the virus go away.

At the same briefing, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, said social distancing was still the best way to control the spread of the coronavirus, for now.

“The trajectory is in our hands, and it’s everybody’s business, and we should all contribute to stop this pandemic,” he said.

There are currently more than 100 potential vaccines under development, and President Donald Trump is reportedly set to put a former GlaxoSmithKline
GSK,
-3.44%

executive in charge of America’s effort to produce a vaccine.

As of Wednesday, there have been more than 4.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, with nearly 300,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S., there have been nearly 1.4 million cases and more than 84,000 deaths.

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