With an increase in cases due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the pandemic may turn into an endemic infection.
As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and case numbers break past record highs, billionaire Microsoft cofounder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates sees a possible end in the near future.
“Once an Omicron moves through a country, the rest of the year should see far fewer cases,” Gates told University of Edinburgh President of Global Public Health Devi Sridhar during a Twitter Q&A this week. “So COVID can be treated like the seasonal flu.”
This would effectively turn a pandemic – defined as a disease that has spread across a country, continent or entire planet – into an endemic, like the annual flu. This could mean annual shots, like how we prepare for flu season, he said.
Gates’ statement echoed that of America’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said this week that the Omicron edition “will be found by just about everyone.”
Between the natural immunity that comes from catching and surviving COVID-19, the very high vaccination rates (62.6% of the US population, according to the latest CDC data), and the increasing availability of drugs to treat the most severe COVID cases, America may be on the verge of transition from pandemic to pandemic.
“We may be on the threshold of that right now,” Fauci said. “It’s entirely possible.”