Everyone will get COVID more than once during their lives, scientist says

Shoppers pass a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Solihull town centre. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the vaccination campaign has allowed England to maintain its current level of coronavirus controls. Picture date: Wednesday December 29, 2021. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
Shoppers pass a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Solihull town centre. (PA)

A scientist has said every person will likely catch COVID more than once during their lifetime.

Professor Francois Balloux, a geneticist from University College London (UCL), warned although vaccines perform well against severe disease, hospitalisation and death, the jabs were “meh” against stopping infections.

He added this meant most people would likely catch coronavirus soon and then again at least once.

But the professor was criticised for having “no empathy” after making the remarks on Twitter on Tuesday.

Watch: Boris Johnson calls on people to get booster jabs as Omicron cases surge in UK

Prof Balloux wrote: “This is not an easy message to convey, even to those who have already accepted that zero-covid was toast.

"Essentially everyone will eventually get infected by SARS-CoV-2 in the near future, and likely more than once in their lifetime."

He said measures like wearing masks would prolong the pandemic by delaying some getting infected.

Prof Balloux added: "Vaccine protection against infection is meh, though protection against severe symptoms, hospitalisation and death remains stellar (~20x), including against Omicron."

He said the virus would become endemic, continuing: “I believe it is time to give in soon.

“Vaccine protection rates are as high as they may ever be in many places, and now we've got a couple of decent drugs.

“Pretending we remain in control, of sorts, is just becoming too costly.”

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Dr Simon Ashworth, head of speciality and consultant intensive care medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, criticised Prof Balloux for his comments.

He replied: “If you lie down on the tracks and wait the train to run you over, then it will run you over. So get up.

“Balloux has been consistently wrong about the pandemic… he sounds plausible but seems to have zero real understanding and no empathy.”

Prof Balloux later clarified he was not calling for restrictions to be lifted right now, but suggested we continue controlling COVID case numbers over the coming months with proactive and reactive measures to ensure a smooth transition into the endemic.

A health worker administers a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at a pop-up coronavirus vaccination centre at the Redbridge Town Hall, east London on December 25, 2021. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his Christmas Eve message exhorted the UK public to get jabbed as a
A health worker administers a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up coronavirus vaccination centre at the Redbridge Town Hall, east London, on Christmas Day. (Getty)

Earlier this month, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the country was going through a “bumpy transition” from the coronavirus pandemic to it becoming endemic after the Omicron variant emerged.

He said: “What we are on is a road from pandemic to endemic, where this becomes a more regular infection like flu or something over time.”

Health secretary Sajid Javid told MPs COVID variants would continue to develop for “many years”.

He said: “There are going to be variants of COVID-19, as he says, for many years and indeed there have been many hundreds of variants, and there is no country in the world that is better on the surveillance of those variants.”

Professor Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M) which reports to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), previously said repeated vaccinations could be offered “for years to come” to keep COVID-19 at bay.

He told Sky News: “In the longer term, COVID is likely to become endemic and we probably are going to have to manage it with repeated vaccination campaigns for years to come.”

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