Over the next ten years, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus may begin to affect young children, thus resembling other coronaviruses that cause the common cold. This term is called by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, who published their findings in the journal Science Advances. Experts believe that the overall burden of the disease will decrease since most adults will be immune to COVID-19.
The researchers conducted mathematical modeling of the age structure of the pandemic to study possible future scenarios of age-related changes, morbidity, and mortality burden from COVID-19. The burden of the disease was studied in the short, medium, and long term-1, 10, and 20 years, respectively. In addition, this indicator was considered for 11 different countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, Europe, Spain, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the United States, Brazil, and South Africa, which differ greatly in demographic characteristics.
The results indicated a shift in the risk of infection from the adult population to children. Such shifts were observed in relation to other coronaviruses and influenza viruses, which began to cause endemic diseases. For example, the pandemic of 1889-1890, known as the “Asian flu” or “Russian flu,” claimed the lives of a million people, mostly adults over 70 years old. It was probably caused by the HCoV-OC43 influenza virus, which then turned into a cold virus that mainly affects children aged 7-12 months.
However, if the immunity to re-infection of SARS-CoV-2 among adults decreases, the burden of the disease may remain high in this group, although the disease itself will become lighter. Initial exposure to the virus can give short-term immunity to re-infection, allowing for repeated outbreaks, and the immune system will provide some protection against severe disease. The vaccine provides more reliable protection than coronavirus infection.