WASHINGTON D.C.: COVID-19 has now killed as many Americans as the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic, numbering some 675,000.
However, the 1918 flu pandemic is seen as more lethal because the U.S. population in the previous century was just one-third of the current number.
COVID-19 may never entirely disappear like the flu, but scientists hope it will become mild and seasonal through vaccinations and repeated infections.
"We hope it will be like getting a cold, but there is no guarantee," said Rustom Antia, biologist at Emory University, as reported by Reuters.
While the surge in infections caused by the Delta variant may have peaked, an average of over 1,900 cases a day are still being recorded in the U.S., the highest level since early March.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the overall U.S. toll was over 675,000 on Monday, though the real number is likely to be higher. A new surge may also occur in winter.
"We will all get infected. What is important is whether the infections are severe," Antia noted.
Between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans are still killed by flu every year, but it is at least a seasonal and manageable disease. Before COVID-19, the Spanish flu was considered the worst pandemic in human history.
Just under 64 percent of Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, compared to the overall global rate of 43 percent, according to Our World in Data.
Current vaccines are extremely effective in preventing severe disease and death from all known COVID-19 variants.
On Wednesday, a Pfizer executive stated that if the virus mutates significantly, a new vaccine using the technology behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could be produced in under four months.
Pfizer is also conducting research to determine whether annual inoculations with current vaccines are required to maintain immunity.
Luckily, COVID-19 mutates slower than influenza, making it an easier target for vaccines, said retired University of Washington professor of epidemiology Ann Marie Kimball.
To unvaccinated individuals relying on infection, rather than vaccinations, Kimball stressed, "You have to survive infection to acquire immunity. It is easier to go to the drugstore and get a shot."