A vaccine for the coronavirus is no guarantee that life will return to normal anytime soon, health care expert Aaron E. Carroll argues in his latest column for The New York Times.

“It would be better to prepare for a difficult 2021 and be surprised by its being easier than to assume things will be easier and find life is still hard,” wrote Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. Both, though, require running.”

In the editorial published Tuesday, Carroll cautioned that Americans will need to take pandemic precautions, such as wearing masks and social distancing, well into the new year because it’s “very unlikely” that a vaccine to combat COVID-19 “will be a game changer.”

There are too many unknowns, Carroll argued, such as how long a dose would provide immunity for or whether the vaccine could be produced to scale and distributed to those most in need.

“It is much more likely that life in 2021, especially in the first half of the year, will need to look much like life does now,” he said. “Those who think that we have just a few more months of pain to endure will need to adjust their expectations. Those thinking that school this fall will be a one-off, that we will be back to normal next year, let alone next semester, may be in for a rude awakening.”

Read Carroll’s full editorial here.

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