Gottlieb: 'We're close to the end of the pandemic phase'

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As the U.S. vaccination campaign for children ages 5-11 kicks off, COVID-19's pandemic-level status may soon evolve into an endemic, Scott Gottlieb, MD, told CBS News on Nov. 7. 

"I think that we're close to the end of the pandemic phase of this virus, and we're going to enter a more endemic phase," said Dr. Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner and current Pfizer board member. 

Moving into an endemic-level phase is largely considered a mark of success because it means a transition out of a COVID-19 pandemic emergency mode characterized by high hospitalizations and strained healthcare resources. By contrast, endemic status indicates a virus is spreading at a more manageable, background rate. 


Dr. Gottlieb pointed to the situation in the U.K. as a potential indicator of how COVID-19 infections might shift in the U.S. In the United Kingdom, cases rose as people began returning to a pre-pandemic lifestyle and are now starting to decline again. 

"As the situation improves here in the U.S., people are going to go out. More cases may pick up. But that doesn't mean that we're entering into another wave of infection," he told CBS News, adding that regional outbreaks might continue to pop up as the delta variant moves through the country. 

"This delta virus is going to play out through the country," Dr. Gottlieb said. "There's not much we're going to be able to do at this point to interrupt it. We've seen the South be engulfed with the infection and it's recovered. The reality is this delta infection is going to capture most people who remain unvaccinated at this point." 

He highlighted the recent approval of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for young children and the development of two potential COVID-19 antivirals as the beginning of the end of the virus's pandemic status.

"We've always said that two of the events that would demarcate the end of this pandemic was being able to vaccinate our children," Dr. Gottlieb said. "We're now able to do that down to age 5, and also having a widely available or orally accessible drug that could treat coronavirus at home to prevent people from being hospitalized or dying," he said, referring to Merck and Pfizer's experimental antiviral pills.

 

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