President Biden has set a Jan. 4 deadline for employees of businesses to be vaccinated. At that point, a Pfizer board member said Friday, the outbreak might already be in its next stage. "By Jan. 4, this pandemic may well be over, at least as it relates to the United States after we get through this delta wave of infection," said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who's also a former FDA commissioner. "And we'll be in a more endemic phase of this virus." He made the comments in an interview on Squawk Box, CNBC reports. Scientists around the world are trying to map out when the outbreak will wind down and the coronavirus will shift to being endemic disease, but it's complicated. Details:
- The transition: The US is at the top of the list for nations likely to soon leave the pandemic behind as the delta variant passes its peak, per Reuters. Portugal and India, for example, are in the same boat, as are other countries with high vaccination rates and greater natural immunity among their people from previous infections. "We think between now and the end of 2022, this is the point where we get control over this virus ... where we can significantly reduce severe disease and death," said Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist in charge of the World Health Organization's effort against COVID.
- Trouble spots: Europe's outlook is worsening, per the BBC. Cases are up 55% over the past four weeks. A WHO official warned Friday of as many as 500,000 more deaths by February. The easing of coronavirus restrictions and the slowing pace of vaccinations get the blame. Deaths are up dramatically in Russia and Ukraine. "We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of COVID-19 to preventing them from happening in the first place," a WHO leader said.
- Caveats: Although they're confident about the pandemic easing soon, scientists caution that the world is dealing with an unpredictable virus. It's still mutating as it moves through unvaccinated populations. A "doomsday scenario," with the virus mutating until it can defeat immunity, remains possible, per Reuters.
(Test results for anti-COVID pill from Pfizer
show strong promise.)