Millions of Americans are on their way to getting vaccinated for the virus, as well as many more people around the world. But despite the fact that slow vaccine rollouts mean the U.S. won’t achieve herd immunity for months to come, a study published Tuesday in Science also suggests COVID-19 is “here to stay,” The New York Times reports.
Right now, COVID-19 is incredibly dangerous and often deadly because it’s brand new to the human body. But once people’s immune systems are introduced to the virus, either by contracting it or, hopefully, through a vaccine, they’ll get better at fighting the virus off. Things are different for children, who have strong immune systems because they’re constantly experiencing viruses and pathogens that are new to their bodies. For example, they start contracting common cold coronaviruses at around age 3 to 5 and fight them off, building up immunity as they’re infected again and again over the years.
So after most Americans are vaccinated, severe coronavirus infections will likely still happen — albeit rarely — among adults. Then, years or decades later, those severe reactions will likely peter out due to increased immunity among adults, Jennie Lavine, a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University, who led the study, told the Times. That’s when COVID-19 will likely join the league of endemic coronaviruses that cause the common cold, Lavine and her team predicted after comparing COVID-19 to other coronaviruses. And again, because of the immunity adults have picked up, COVID-19 will likely only infect children under five years old — and they’ll probably only end up with some sniffles or no symptoms at all.