ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Pfizer’s Global President, Dr. Nanette Cocero told investors Friday that COVID-19 could become an endemic by 2024, according to CNBC. But what’s an endemic versus a pandemic?

It was March 2020 when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. WHO Senior Emergency Officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, said it’s COVID’s uncertain future that is preventing it from being declared an endemic, according to NewsNation.

The Mayo Clinic said a pandemic is simply a global epidemic. According to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, a pandemic has the following characteristics:

  • Affects a wide geographical area, often worldwide
  • Infects more people than an epidemic
  • Most times caused by a new virus or a strain of virus that people have little or no immunity to and spreads quickly worldwide
  • Causes many more deaths than epidemics
  • Most times disrupts society, and causes economic or general difficulty

Labeling COVID an endemic doesn’t mean it will go away entirely, it means COVID will act more like seasonal flu with areas of outbreaks, the Mayo Clinic said. On Friday’s investor call, Pfizer Chief Scientific Officer, Mikael Dolsten, said effective distribution of vaccines, treatment, and variants will determine when COVID will be considered an endemic, according to CNBC.

“Since viruses spread where there are enough susceptible individuals and enough contact among them to sustain spread, it’s hard to anticipate what the timeline will be for the expected shift of COVID-19 to endemicity,” said Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Professor, Yonatan Grad. COVID’s turn to an endemic could happen by location, Dolsten said.

Omicron, the latest COVID variant to sweep through the U.S., has been shown to have more mild symptoms than the Delta variant. Last week Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, said omicron would seek out and infect a large majority of the population. If that happens it could trigger immunity at higher rates and ultimately be what’s needed for COVID to receive classification as an endemic.