CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan's ACIP head predicts regular COVID-19 vaccines won't be necessary
Taipei, Feb. 2 (CNA) With COVID-19 set to become more like the common cold, annual vaccinations will likely be unnecessary for most people, the head of Taiwan's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎) said Thursday.
Lee was asked during a radio interview how he saw Taiwan's COVID-19 situation playing out in the future, following remarks by a Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) official on Wednesday that the government was looking to downgrade COVID-19's communicable disease classification by May or June.
In response, Lee noted that while daily COVID-19 cases recently rose above 30,000, the "high-risk" period of the pandemic had already passed.
"What we should be paying attention to now is the number of severe infections and deaths," Lee said, pointing out that at present, COVID-19 is still more deadly than seasonal influenza.
In particular, it is important to remind vulnerable population groups such as the elderly to regularly get vaccine boosters, he said.
In the future, however, Lee predicted that COVID-19 will "come to resemble the common cold more than the flu."
In the case of influenza, he explained, vaccines are used because the virus undergoes rather large mutations, which make it more adept at evading immune responses and thus more likely to cause severe illness or death.
In contrast, the mutations in common colds are more limited, which means that they pose less of a health risk and therefore do not require the use of vaccines, he said.
Lee noted that what people called "common colds" were typically caused by one of more than 100 rhinoviruses or four coronaviruses. In the future, he said, COVID-19 could come to be seen as a fifth cold-causing coronavirus.
As this process plays out, COVID-19 vaccines will probably only be necessary for newborn babies, who are at a higher risk because they have never encountered the virus, and possibly the elderly, because of their reduced immune function, Lee said.
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