The coronavirus is likely to become a virus that causes illness during the winter months.
Researcher Gunnveig Grødeland has followed the variants of sars-cov-2 (the coronavirus) during the pandemic. He works at the Department of Immunology and Transfusion Medicine at the University of Oslo.
– We will experience a fifth, sixth and seventh wave of the coronavirus. Sars-cov-2 is not a virus that we get rid of in the first place, she says.
The question is to what extent it will be necessary to take action against future variants of the virus. Here, Grødeland answers questions about sars-cov-2 and the future.
1. The coronavirus will never go away. How should we deal with it?
– About the way we now relate to the flu. We may need to get vaccinated against sars-cov-2 from time to time, and especially if there are variants that have changed a lot from the beginning. Eventually i won’t everybody The population needs to think about SARS-COV-2. In Norway, people over 65 and risk groups get vaccinated against influenza. There will probably be something like this for sars-cov-2 as well.
2. Why is the coronavirus expected to be less dangerous for the population?
– We now have protective immune responses formed in a large proportion of the population. We have previous experience with various dangerous viruses in society that illustrate this. One of the worst was the Spanish flu, which around World War I killed more people than acts of war. This virus became a common seasonal flu virus. only a few years later, because the population had formed protective immune responses.
Grødeland believes that we are better today, especially thanks to good vaccines.
– The most probable thing for the future is that sars-cov-2 is a virus that causes some disease in the winter. But vaccines may protect risk groups against serious diseases.
3. When will the pandemic itself end?
– In Norway, we have reasonably good control of the pandemic. A large proportion of the adult population has been vaccinated. However, it is important to ensure that there is not a significant increase in the number of seriously ill people. The number of hospital admissions is more important than the number of infected.
– However, a pandemic also applies in the world outside of Norway. There is a great shortage of vaccines in many places. The reduced protection this provides will in turn increase the likelihood of new variants of the virus being produced. They will be able to come here and cause new challenges. We will not end the pandemic until we have an international solution.
4. Does this mean that we should have new types of vaccines?
– No. It should work fine with mRNA vaccines. These vaccines will have to be updated at some point when we are faced with new variants of sars-cov-2, variants that are significantly different from the variant in the vaccine. Like flu shots. They are updated annually to accommodate the circulating virus.
5. Do we receive a fifth wave of this coronavirus?
– Yes, and a sixth, a seventh and so on. This is not a virus that we want to get rid of in the first place. Sars-cov-2 is a constantly changing RNA virus. We will bring it back in some new varieties in the future. The question is to what extent we will need protection against future variants.
Several other coronaviruses are now circulating in the population. They make us catch a cold. Now vaccines help build immunity.
– The protection we have will eventually mean that sars-cov-2 will likely be considered more like the previous coronavirus or influenza. They come and we face it by vaccinating the most vulnerable groups in society.
6. Can you get sars-cov-2 if you have the flu?
– You can. Especially among risk groups, a double infection could lead to an increase in the disease rate. Therefore, it is very important this year that all people over 65 get vaccinated against the flu, as well as others who are in vulnerable groups at risk. In summary, this year we are better equipped than last year, because we have both sars-cov-2 and influenza vaccines available.
7. What will this winter be like with the flu virus and the corona at the same time?
– This year’s flu has two possible scenarios: last year we had a flu-free fall-winter. Because we were not exposed to the flu virus last year, we may have somewhat reduced protection and the virus causes more patients than usual. On the other hand, the influenza virus did not circulate in as large a population as it usually does. Then the flu virus will not have changed as much as it usually does. Therefore, it is not inconceivable that the immune responses that we generate by the pandemic will continue to provide good protection against influenza.