Global eradication of COVID-19 probably feasible, and more s
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The global eradication of COVID-19 is probably feasible, and more so than it is for polio, although considerably less so than it was for smallpox, suggests a comparative score of technical, sociopolitical, and economic factors for all three infections. Vaccination, public health measures, and global interest in achieving this goal as a result of the huge financial and social havoc wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, all make eradication possible.

To estimate the feasibility of COVID-19 eradication, defined as 'the permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of infection caused by a specific agent as a result of deliberate efforts', the authors compared it with two other viral scourges for which vaccines were/are available—-smallpox and polio—using an array of technical, sociopolitical, and economic factors that are likely to help achieve this goal.

They used a three point scoring system for each of 17 variables. These included: factors such as 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 concern about the economic and social impacts of the infection; 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. They acknowledge that relative to smallpox and polio, the technical challenges of COVID-19 eradication include poor vaccine acceptance, and the emergence of more highly transmissible variants that may evade immunity, potentially outrunning global vaccination programmes.

"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," they explain. "Other challenges would be the high upfront costs, and achieving the necessary international cooperation in the face of 'vaccine nationalism' and government-mediated 'antiscience aggression'," they admit.

Eradication of COVID-19 has been achieved and sustained for long periods in several jurisdictions in the Asia-Pacific region, providing proof-of-concept that global eradication is technically possible, they say. The benefits of eradication could outweigh the costs, even if it takes many years and has a significant risk of failure, they add.

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