Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said on Wednesday that he expects the world will have to deal with the coronavirus “forever.”
“SARS-CoV-2 is not going away,” Bancel said during a panel at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, according to CNBC. “We are going to live with this virus, we think, forever.”
More than 23 million people in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began last year, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 384,000 deaths attributed to the virus.
Health experts have stipulated as far back as May that the novel coronavirus could become another endemic virus that recurs either seasonally or in sporadic outbreaks.
“I doubt we are going to eradicate this,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said in November. “I think we need to plan that this is something we may need to maintain control over chronically. It may be something that becomes endemic.”
Concerns have been exacerbated by a new strain of the coronavirus from the United Kingdom that could be as much as 70% more contagious than the strain most commonly found in Europe and North America, according to NBC 6.
White House testing chief Adm. Brett Giroir has emphasized that scientists have found “no evidence to suggest, nor reason to believe, that [a new strain] would evade our vaccines that we have right now.”
Mutations are not uncommon in the coronavirus or any virus — this week, researchers in Ohio announced that they had identified two new strains of the coronavirus, according to NBC News. However, mutations become concerning when they lead to significant increases in transmission or lethality. Typically, as viruses mutate to become more contagious, they become less deadly because more deadly strains will kill hosts before transmitting the virus, according to Philadelphia’s College of Physicians.
One of the new strains in Ohio quickly became the dominant variant in Columbus in just a three-week period.
The U.S. has distributed more than 29 million vaccines so far, and more than 10 million of those vaccines have been administered, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the U.S. is “way behind” on its vaccine administration program.