The much-hoped-for herd immunity to the new coronavirus is unlikely to occur in many parts of the world until the end of 2021, a World Health Organization official said this week, warning that the next few months will be “critical”.
“We have to get closer to the beginning of the end, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s scientist, to CNBC on Wednesday. “However, there is still a tunnel that we have to go through and the next few months will be very critical.”
When we spoke to herd immunity, “it will take until the end of 2021 until we start to see a level of population immunity come up in some countries,” she continued.
In the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases, recently said that herd immunity is likely to be achieved if at least 75% of the population receives the COVID-19 vaccine, which he expects to be widely available, coming this spring.
PFIZER TOUTS COVID-19 VACCINE FLEXIBILITY IN THE MIDDLE OF UK STEM CONSIDERATIONS
Speaking to CNBC, Swaminathan warned people that they “must keep our guard” until herd immunity is achieved, which means taking the important expert-recommended precautions – such as Wearing a mask and social distance – until that time.
“We have to do all the things we know, reduce transmission and the chances of people getting sick from this,” she said. “While we can look forward – certainly by the end of next year – to a much better picture, the next few months, I think, will be tough.”
Swaminathan also spoke briefly with CNBC about the new coronavirus strain that has been identified in the UK, noting that although more transmissible, the variant “does not appear to increase clinical severity or make things worse,” for those who get that.
NYC REPORTS ‘SIGNIFICANT’ COVID-19 VACCINE REACTION IN HEALTH TREATMENT
She said the two COVID-19 jabs, developed by Pfizer and Moderna, which have been approved in emergency situations in several countries, including the United States, could be “easily” fine-tuned if necessary – although she expects them to be protective against new varieties as they are at present.
“If there is a need, it can be done,” she said. “But at the moment, I think most people think the current generation of vaccines should work fine.”
CLICK HERE FOR FULL CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE
Swaminatan’s comments came the same day that UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that another variation of the new coronavirus had been discovered in two people who were contacts in cases stemming from the recent trip to South Africa.
The variant, the second recently identified in the country, is “more transmissible and it appears to have mutated longer than the new variant discovered in the UK,” he said.
Fox News’ Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.