In the next few years, coronavirus will act like a normal cold, affecting only children who have not been vaccinated, new research has revealed.

The researchers noted that the severity of coronavirus is lower among children, therefore, the overall burden from this disease is expected to decline as the SARS-CoV-2 virus becomes endemic in the global population.

Ottar Bjornstad from the University of Oslo in Norway said the risk of Covid-19 infection will shift to younger children as the adult community becomes immune either through Covid vaccination or exposure to the virus.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances said such shifts have been observed in other coronaviruses and influenza viruses. Citing an example of Russian flu, the researchers said, “During the 1889-1890 pandemic, sometimes known as the Asiatic or Russian flu — which killed one million people, primarily adults over age 70 — may have been caused by the emergence of HCoV-OC43 virus, which is now an endemic, mild, repeat-infecting cold virus affecting mostly children ages 7-12 months old”.

However, the study warned that if the immunity to reinfection by SARS-CoV-2 wanes among adults, the disease burden could remain high in that group, although previous exposure to the virus would lessen the severity of the disease.

The team developed a “realistic age-structured (RAS) mathematical model” that integrates demography, degree of social mixing, and duration of infection-blocking and disease-reducing immunity to examine potential future scenarios for age-incidence and burden of mortality for Covid-19.

The researchers analysed disease burden over immediate, medium and long terms — 1, 10 and 20 years, respectively.

They also examined disease burden for 11 different countries — China, Japan, South Korea, Spain, UK, France, Germany, Italy, the US, Brazil and South Africa — that differed widely in their demographics.

The researchers noted that in a scenario of long-lasting immunity, either permanent or at least 10 years, the young are predicted to have the highest rates of infection as older individuals are protected from new infections by prior infection.

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