"People need to be prepared for the possibility that the coronavirus will remain 'among us' in the long run despite vaccinations," the director of the European Health Agency warned in an interview with Agence France-Presse.
"Now, it seems more likely that he will stay with us, despite the fact that he will disappear," said Andrea Amon, director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
"He seems to be adapting very well to people, so we have to prepare for the possibility that he will stay with us," he said.
"It would not be the first virus to stay with us forever, so it is not an unusual feature for a virus," said the head of the Stockholm-based European health authority.
Although vaccines can greatly reduce the risk of infection with Covid-19, scientists do not yet know if they will block the transmission of the virus itself.
The new strains, especially the South African and Brazilian ones, complicate the data because there are suspicions that they could limit the effectiveness of the vaccine.
"The question is what will mean for the vaccine to be effective," Amon said, citing the example of seasonal flu where vaccines are adapted each year.
"It is possible that the same thing will happen, or rather, at some point in time the virus will stabilize and we will be able to use a vaccine for a long time," he told AFP by video conference.