People Claim they Want COVID-19 to become ‘Endemic.’ But What exactly does It Imply?

Experts caution that it is dangerous to overuse the phrase and get comfortable at this level.

As Canadians get sick of COVID-19 after two years, many use the word “endemic” to convey optimism that we’re approaching a point when we can relax public health regulations and live with the virus.

The term ‘endemic’ has become one of the pandemic’s most abused.
And many of the erroneous assumptions made create a false sense of security, as Aris Katzourakis, a professor of evolution and genomics at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, wrote about it in an article published earlier this week in the journal Nature.

Katzourakis says that believing that endemicity is both benign and unavoidable is not just incorrect; it is also dangerous: it sets humanity up for many more years of sickness, including unexpected waves of breakouts.

According to infectious disease experts and epidemiologists, it also inaccurately implies that the epidemic is approaching an end in Canada and other wealthy nations, even though public health measures remain vital.

“Endemic” indicates a virus is present in a territory at a consistent level, rather than the rising and falling waves of infection observed so far in the coronavirus pandemic.

Endemicity happens when the natural reproduction is balanced out by the population’s built-up immunity, resulting in general stability — a consistent number of cases in the community, as Katzourakis said to CBC News.

The virus’s reproduction number — a measure of how infectious it is — remains around one in an endemic stage, “so it’s not diminishing and it’s not rising,” said Dr. Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa.

According to him, the endemicity of an illness has nothing to do with how severely it affects individuals.

Malaria, for example, is widespread in many regions of the globe and, according to UNICEF, is one of the most lethal infections for young children.

“Endemic” doesn’t mean ‘We’re done with this”

That is not the case with COVID-19 right now, which is unsustainable for healthcare systems, according to both Deonandan and Katzourakis.

How may an endemic COVID-19 look?

When many individuals say “endemic,” they frequently imply they want COVID-19 under control, according to Deonandan.

That’s when a sickness “pesters us all the time, but we’ve got a grip on it,”

Some individuals will still get ill, particularly the most susceptible.

Seniors, small children, and immunocompromised persons, for example, are at a greater risk of falling extremely sick with the flu and must be protected, including by vaccine.
When COVID-19 is brought under control, the scenario will most likely be similar, according to Bogoch.

How to make Pandemic just Ugly History

Experts concur that COVID-19 will remain a concern in developed nations such as Canada until more individuals in all countries are immunized.

Deonandan believes that if wealthier nations prioritized worldwide immunization, the virus might be eradicated within months.

The World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, recently made a similar prediction, stating that if a worldwide goal of 70% vaccination is attained, the “acute phase” of the pandemic might finish this year.

Coronavirus propagation is uncontrollable in under-vaccinated areas, where novel varieties emerge and spread quickly.

We’ve already seen the devastation that variations may do even in nations where most of the population has been immunized, like Canada and the United Kingdom, as Katzourakis explained.

Aiding underdeveloped nations to vaccinate their populations entails supplying enough vaccine doses and sending them adequate lead time to reach people’s arms.

Vaccine contributions cannot be considered “table scraps.”

Bogoch, who has vast experience working in underdeveloped African nations:

“You can’t offer table scraps. You must provide immunizations that will not expire soon.Sadly we’ve seen many lower-income countries receive these donations and they’ve had to discard these vaccines because they had such a short time to expiration, which is tragic.”

Tonia Nissen
Based out of Detroit, Tonia Nissen has been writing for Optic Flux since 2017 and is presently our Managing Editor. An experienced freelance health writer, Tonia obtained an English BA from the University of Detroit, then spent over 7 years working in various markets as a television reporter, producer and news videographer. Tonia is particularly interested in scientific innovation, climate technology, and the marine environment.