Covid will become an endemic disease as early as 2024, Pfizer executives said Friday, meaning the virus will transition from a global emergency to a constant presence causing regional outbreaks across the world — much like the flu.
“We believe Covid will transition to an endemic state, potentially by 2024,” Nanette Cocero, global president of Pfizer Vaccines, said during an investor call Friday.
Covid-19 would reach the endemic level when populations have enough immunity from vaccines or from prior infections to keep transmissions, hospitalizations and deaths under control even as the virus circulates.
“When and how exactly this happens will depend on the evolution of the disease, how effectively society deploys vaccines and treatments, and equitable distribution to places where vaccination rates are low,” Pfizer chief scientific officer Mikael Dolsten said. “The emergence of new variants could also impact how the pandemic continues to play out.”
The timing of Covid’s transition to an endemic state could vary from place to place, according to Dolsten.
“It seems like over the next year or two, some regions will transition to an endemic model while other regions will continue in pandemic mode,” Dolsten said.
The comments from Pfizer executives come as the U.S. battles a surge of Covid cases led by the delta variant, while the omicron strain quickly spreads. The seven-day average of new hospital admissions for Covid jumped 4% from the prior week, Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday in a White House briefing.
Stockpiling vaccines and Covid treatments such as Pfizer’s oral antiviral pill could become more commonplace as the disease becomes endemic, Angela Hwang, group president of the Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group, said.
Pfizer expects countries will prioritize annual revaccination, Cocero said.