SUNDAY, April 14, 2024

Covid-19 will become like the flu, virologist says

Covid-19 will become like the flu, virologist says

As Covid-19 transitions from a pandemic to an endemic disease, it will eventually become like the flu, Chulalongkorn University expert virologist Dr Yong Poovorawan said on Wednesday.

“Flu spreads every year, and the variant also changes each time it spreads, meaning vaccines used must be adjusted accordingly,” Yong said in a Facebook post.

“Most importantly, you can still catch a flu even after recovering from one.”

Yong pointed out that Covid-19 has shown similar characteristics since it was first discovered in Wuhan.

“We have seen new variants periodically, from G to Alpha, Delta, Omicron BA.1 and currently Omicron BA.5. When a new variant becomes dominant, the old ones gradually disappear,” he said.

“Similar to the flu, you can catch Covid-19 again after recovering from it,” he noted.

Young said the flu and Covid-19 virus constantly change variants to overcome immunity, therefore a new vaccine needs to be developed to combat the new variant.

“People who received several shots of Covid-19 vaccine can still get infected, that is because the vaccine we use is still a first-generation one designed to fight the original virus,” he said.

Although a new type of Covid-19 vaccine has yet to come out, infections currently show a downward trend as people who have recovered from the disease have stronger immunity, while the new variant also tends to cause milder symptoms, he said.

“Being infected with the virus is like receiving a natural vaccine to raise your immunity,” said Yong. “However, the downside is that vulnerable people could still develop severe symptoms and die after infection. Therefore, we need to develop a next generation of vaccines to fight new Covid-19 variants, ideally with coverage of new and existing variants – just like a flu shot that we give to vulnerable people every year,” he added.