The pandemic is not coming to an end soon — given that only a small proportion of the world population has been vaccinated against Covid-19, a well-known epidemiologist told CNBC.
Dr. Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist who was part of the World Health Organization’s team that helped eradicate smallpox, said the delta variant is “maybe the most contagious virus” ever.
In recent months, the U.S., India and China, as well as other countries in Europe, Africa and Asia have been grappling with a highly transmissible delta variant of the virus.
WHO declared Covid-19 a global pandemic last March — after the disease, which first emerged in China in late 2019, spread throughout the world.
The good news is that vaccines — particularly those using messenger RNA technology and the one by Johnson & Johnson — are holding up against the delta variant, Brilliant told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Friday.
Still, only 15% of the world population has been vaccinated and more than 100 countries have inoculated less than 5% of their people, noted Brilliant.
“I think we’re closer to the beginning than we are to the end [of the pandemic], and that’s not because the variant that we’re looking at right now is going to last that long,” said Brilliant, who is now the founder and CEO of a pandemic response consultancy, Pandefense Advisory.
“Unless we vaccinate everyone in 200 plus countries, there will still be new variants,” he said, predicting that the coronavirus will eventually become a “forever virus” like influenza.
Probability of ‘super variant’
Brilliant said his models on the Covid outbreak in San Francisco and New York predict an “inverted V-shape epidemic curve.” That implies that infections increase very quickly, but would also decline rapidly, he explained.
If the prediction turns out be true, it means that the delta variant spreads so quickly that “it basically runs out of candidates” to infect, explained Brilliant.
There appears to be a similar pattern in the U.K. and India, where the spread of the delta variant has receded from recent highs.