Scientists say that the complete eradication of COVID-19 across the globe is more “feasible” than it is for polio, but less so than it was for smallpox. Researchers compared the technical, sociopolitical, and economic factors for all three infections and their results were published in the online journal BMJ Global Health. They said eradication was possible thanks to the combination of vaccines, public health measures, and global interest in achieving this goal.
They wrote: “While our analysis is a preliminary effort, with various subjective components, it does seem to put COVID-19 eradicability into the realms of being possible, especially in terms of technical feasibility.”
Eradication was defined as: “‘the permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of infection caused by a specific agent as a result of deliberate efforts.”
Comparing COVID-19 with two other viral scourges for which vaccines were or are available – smallpox and polio – they compared a number of different factors.
These included the availability of a safe and effective vaccine, lifelong immunity, impact of public health measures, effective government management of infection control messaging, political and public concerns, and public acceptance of infection control measures.
Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980 and two out of the three serotypes of poliovirus have also been eradicated globally.
The average (total) scores in the analysis added up to 2.7 (43/48) for smallpox, 1.6 (28/51) for COVID-19, and 1.5 (26/51) for polio.
For COVID-19, the experts said the main challenges will be securing sufficiently high vaccine coverage and being able to respond quickly enough to variants that may evade immunity.
But, they added: “Nevertheless, there are of course limits to viral evolution, so we can expect the virus to eventually reach peak fitness, and new vaccines can be formulated.
READ MORE: Dog owners warned against giving pets dinner leftovers as veg linked to deadly disease
They continued: “Collectively these factors might mean that an ‘expected value’ analysis could ultimately estimate that the benefits outweigh the costs, even if eradication takes many years and has a significant risk of failure.”
The researchers acknowledge that their study is preliminary, and more extensive in-depth work is required.
They called for the WHO to formally review the feasibility and desirability of attempting COVID-19 eradication.