Even though vaccines are increasingly readily available in the United States, protection against the asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 is essential to ending the pandemic, according to two Georgetown infectious disease experts.
From their perspective, “SARS-CoV-2 Transmission Without Symptoms” published March 18 in the journal Science, Angela L. Rasmussen, PhD, and Saskia V. Popescu, PhD, MA, faculties affiliated with the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Center, argue that asymptomatic transmission is silently leading to viral spread and is key to ending the pandemic.
“Determining the true transmission capacity of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases is inherently complex, but knowledge gaps should not prevent recognition of their role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2,” the authors write.
“We cannot rely solely on vaccination to control the pandemic,” says Rasmussen. “Vaccines are great for protecting people from disease, but we don’t yet know how well they work to protect against transmission.
Rasmussen says that from a biological point of view, it would be unlikely that a vaccine that protects well against disease does not protect against infection. “But just as vaccines don’t provide one hundred percent protection against disease, neither are they likely to provide one hundred percent protection against transmission.
“Furthermore, while vaccines would become widely available in the United States by the summer, this is not the case in the rest of the world, where the pandemic continues unabated.
Asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission:
“Asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission poses a unique challenge to public health and infection prevention mitigation efforts,” Popescu says. “Ultimately, this is something we will need to continuously monitor as we move into the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and a reduction in illness from vaccinations.”
Rasmussen and Popescu conclude: “Until there is a widespread implementation of robust surveillance and epidemiological measures that allow us to put out these smokeless fires, the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be completely extinguished. . “