Pfizer has forecast that the COVID-19 pandemic will not be behind us until 2024.
Pfizer Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten said in a presentation to investors that the company expects some regions to continue to see pandemic levels of COVID-19 cases over the next year or two.
Other countries will transition to “endemic” with low, manageable caseloads during that same time period.
By 2024, the disease should be endemic around the globe, the company projected.
“When and how exactly this happens will depend on evolution of the disease, how effectively society deploys vaccines and treatments, and equitable distribution to places where vaccination rates are low,” Dolsten said. “The emergence of new variants could also impact how the pandemic continues to play out.”
Pfizer developed its COVID-19 vaccine with Germany’s BioNTech and currently expects it to generate revenue of $31 billion next year. It plans to make 4 billion shots next year.
The pharmaceutical manufacturer also has an experimental antiviral pill called Paxlovid which it says reduced hospitalisations and deaths in high-risk individuals by nearly 90% in a recent clinical trial.
The omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in 89 countries, and COVID-19 cases involving the variant are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in places with community transmission and not just infections acquired abroad, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said over the weekend.
Omicron’s “substantial growth advantage” over the delta variant means it is likely to soon overtake delta as the dominant form of the virus in countries where the new variant is spreading locally, the U.N. health agency said.
WHO noted that omicron is spreading rapidly even in countries with high vaccination rates or where a significant proportion of the population has recovered from COVID-19.
It remains unclear if the rapid growth of omicron cases is because the variant evades existing immunity, is inherently more transmissible than previous variants, or a combination of both, WHO said.
WHO first labelled omicron a variant of concern on 26 November.