Just a few days ago, Bill Gates shared some of his (revised) thoughts on the COVID pandemic and the trajectory that omicron has left us on. Several weeks after warning that omicron’s heightened infectiousness might send the pandemic into overdrive, the Microsoft founder postulated instead that omicron might hasten the end of the pandemic by leaving the human population with more antibodies against the virus. As a result, SARS-CoV-2 might enter its endemic stage more quickly, Gates suggested.
This view, that the end of the pandemic might finally be at hand after two years of suffering, has become increasingly popular as of late. Take this piece from the BBC: “Endemic COVID: Is the pandemic entering its endgame?”.
While the piece mostly focused on the UK, the sense is that the developed world more broadly is closer to the end because of its access to vaccines.
So, is a new Covid-era truly imminent and what will that actually mean for our lives?
“We’re almost there, it is now the beginning of the end, at least in the UK,” Prof Julian Hiscox, chairman in infection and global health at the University of Liverpool, tells me. “I think life in 2022 will be almost back to before the pandemic.”
What’s changing is our immunity. The new coronavirus first emerged two years ago in Wuhan, China, and we were vulnerable. It was a completely new virus that our immune systems had not experienced before and we had no drugs or vaccines to help.
It even came with his handy illustration depicting the difference between “pandemic” and “endemic” COVID:
Well, it appears the CEO of Pfizer has caught on to this narrative – and he approves. Speaking to the French media, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla that while he expects COVID to continue to circulate for many years to come, he expects future waves won’t cause the types of restrictions that people have become used to over the last two years, and that life will return to “normal” in the spring.
Bourla told French news outlet Le Figaro in an interview published Jan. 16 that he expects a “return to normal life” at some point in spring of this year. However, he added the caveat that the mysterious dynamics of COVID’s spread make accurate predictions more difficult.
“We will soon be able to resume a normal life,” Albert Bourla told the French paper. “We are well positioned to get there in the spring thanks to all the tools at our disposal: tests, very effective vaccines and the first treatments that can be taken at home.”
He also credited improvements in COVID testing, vaccines, and therapeutics for his optimistic outlook, telling BFM TV that he expects the current omicron-driven wave to be the “last with so many restrictions.”
But given its affinity for its human hosts, COVID will likely be “very difficult to get rid of,” which is why Bourla expects it to become endemic, with the occasional seasonal flareup, like the flu.
Finally, the Pfizer CEO shared details of local partnerships that he said would help France produce more of Pfizer’s COVID fighting drug Paxlovid.
With his approval rating at an all-time low, President Biden better hope the likes of Bourla and Gates are right. Ending the COVID pandemic might be the only thing that could help Biden regain some support among the tired and frustrated American electorate.