Alejandro Brown receives a Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from a healthcare worker at a drive-through location in Tropical Park on December 16, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
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 around the world – much like the flu.
“We believe Covid may become endemic by 2024,” said Nanette Cocero, global president of Pfizer Vaccines, during a call from investors on Friday.
Covid-19 would reach endemic levels if the population had sufficient immunity to vaccines or previous infections to keep transmissions, hospitalizations and deaths under control, even if the virus was circulating.
“When and how exactly this happens will depend on how the disease develops, how effective society is with vaccines and treatments, and how equitable distribution is in places with low vaccination rates,” said Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer. “The emergence of new variants could also have an impact on the further course of the pandemic.”
The timing of the transition from Covid to an endemic state could vary from place to place, according to Dolsten.
“It seems like some regions will move to an endemic model in the next year or two while other regions will remain in pandemic mode,” said Dolsten.
The comments from Pfizer executives come as the US battles a spate of Covid cases, led by the Delta variant as the Omicron strain spreads rapidly. The seven-day average of new hospital admissions for Covid rose 4% from the previous week, Center for Disease Control director Rochelle Walensky said in a White House briefing on Friday.
Stocking up on vaccines and Covid treatments like Pfizer’s oral antiviral pill could become increasingly common with the endemic disease, said Angela Hwang, group president of Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals Group.
Pfizer expects countries to give priority to annual revaccination, said Cocero.