Angela Rasmussen, a virologist and at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan, told Yahoo Finance Live that ending the COVID-19 pandemic isn't likely to end anytime soon. "Endemicity is what we're really talking about," she said.
One reason COVID-19 may be here to stay is because of its ability to infect different animals. "I don't think that elimination is going to be possible with this virus. This virus infects a number of different animal species ... and even if every human being on the planet [were] vaccinated, there's still potentially susceptible hosts in the form of other animals that this virus could get into," Rasmussen said.
The threat of new variants — including ones that evade vaccines — lingers around the world.
The World Health Organization's director of emergency program, Dr. Mike Ryan, said as much at the World Economic Forum's virtual Davos event this year.
"We won't end the virus this year, we may never end the virus. These pandemic viruses end up becoming part of the ecosystem," Ryan said.
"People talk about pandemic vs. endemic. This word 'endemic.' Endemic malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people, endemic HIV, endemic violence in our inner cities. 'Endemic' in itself does not mean good. 'Endemic' just means it is here forever," Ryan added.
He noted that the only major milestone the world can hit is rolling back the public health emergency status.
Fauci recently said the best-case scenario for 2022 is that the virus subsides to more manageable levels. But in the worst case, the U.S. could be hit by another, harsher variant — just as Omicron struck when the Delta variant was subsiding.
Rasmussen noted that even as Omicron has been surging and cresting faster than previous variants and causing milder symptoms, that doesn't mean the next variant will be moderate.
"We may not be so lucky next time. If its significantly different than Omicron, or any of the other variants that have circulated before, there's certainly the possibility of more breakthrough infections, and there's certainly the possibility of a variant that is more pathogenic," Rasmussen said.
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