The first reports of a new virus causing unusual pneumonia emerged in December 2019. In the weeks that followed, the global scientific community identified the virus — a coronavirus, like the viruses that caused SARS and MERS — and named the disease that causes it: COVID. -19. It quickly spread around the world, changing the rhythm of daily life, changing the patterns of human behavior, stressing healthcare systems and killing millions.
An unprecedented effort to rapidly develop vaccines paid off in late 2020, when pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Moderna released data showing their injections were highly effective. A vaccination campaign quickly helped protect people in higher-income countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, preventing hundreds of thousands of deaths. But vaccinations have lagged in lower-income countries, and vaccine equality remains a major problem.
New highly contagious and immune-evasive variants, such as delta and omicron, caused virus flare-ups around the world through 2021 and 2022. Broad exposure to the virus and vaccine coverage helped limit damage.
Experts say the coronavirus will not go away. Population-level immunity and wider access to vaccines will avert its threat, and COVID-19 will not always be an active public health emergency. But it’s yet another addition to the list of respiratory viruses we deal with every year.
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