Fresh analysis from University of Otago epidemiologists Nick Wilson and Michael Baker says eradicating Covid-19 globally is more "theoretically feasible" than for polio.
Associate Professor Wilson and Professor Baker ranked the feasibility of eradicting Covid-19, polio and smallpox based on factors such as vaccines, the possibility of lifelong immunity, the effectiveness of public health measures and infection control messaging, along with political and public concern.
The epidemiologists found smallpox — declared eradicated in 1980 — had the highest average score (2.7 on a three-point scale across 17 variables), followed by Covid-19 (1.6) and polio (1.5).
Wilson and Baker said the virus had been eliminated in some countries in the Asia-Pacific region for long periods of time — which equated to more than 20 per cent of the world's population —, suggesting this was "possible" globally.
Appearing on Breakfast, Baker explained "progressive elimination" was currently being used globally to tackle polio, measles and rubella.
He said "world willingness" to eradicate Covid-19 now needed to be gauged, as the alternative was "pretty bleak".
"We know technically it can work. It’s just a matter of whether there’s that global political will to make it happen."
Although it was under-staffed and its mandate limited, Baker felt the World Health Organization should be leading the discussion.
He felt "getting everyone onboard" was the number one challenge to global eradication.
"If this virus continues to circulate in the huge scale that it is, that’s going to create the perfect conditions for creating more dangerous variants going into the future and also crossing into animal resovoirs and mixing with the thousands of other coronaviruses that are already in the animal world," Baker warned.
"I think that’s a pretty grim long-term prospect. I think we should do everything we can to at least explore the idea of global eradication."
Baker and Wilson's peer-reviewed article, 'We should not dismiss the possibility of eradicating Covid-19: comparisons with smallpox and polio' has been published in the journal BMJ Global Health.