In a recent interview, renowned epidemiologist Aubree Gordon provided insights into the ongoing transition of COVID-19 from a pandemic to an endemic phase. With the virus continuing to affect communities worldwide, the interview sheds light on the current state of the virus, the impact of immunity, reinfections, booster shots, and the potential future trajectory.
Gordon highlighted that while the worst of the pandemic may be behind us, the virus is not disappearing. Instead, it is moving towards an endemic phase, characterized by a regular circulation of the virus at a baseline level. She emphasized that this does not mean the virus will be benign, as people will still fall ill with COVID-19, though the severity is expected to be significantly lower than during the peak of the pandemic.
The interview noted that a significant proportion of the population now possesses some form of immunity against SARS-CoV-2. Hybrid immunity, gained through a combination of vaccination and prior infections, has contributed to a higher level of overall immunity. While infections and reinfections can still occur, their severity tends to be milder, though severe reinfections are still possible.
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Addressing the topic of booster shots, Gordon indicated that they are advised, particularly for individuals at higher risk of severe disease. While vaccines have played a crucial role in reducing the impact of the virus, SARS-CoV-2 remains more severe than the flu and continues to cause a significant number of deaths annually.
Gordon expressed optimism that the transition to an endemic phase is underway, though it may take some time to fully reach that state. The severity of the disease has been trending downward, and the hope is that this trend continues. The forthcoming fall season will provide valuable insights into the trajectory of the virus, including whether the endemic level has been reached.
The interview concluded by acknowledging the season-to-season variability and the role of emerging variants in shaping the severity of the virus. Just as with the flu, the severity of SARS-CoV-2 infections is likely to vary from year to year.