The Hague, Netherlands: The Europe's medicines regulator said on Tuesday, the spread of the Omicron variant is pushing Covid towards being an endemic disease that humanity can live with, although it remains a pandemic for now.
To explain in lay terms, endemic means the disease is there along with the population, nobody is very much concerned about the disease, but it is there. The disease is affecting a very small proportion of the society, neither growing nor shrinking at a faster rate.
Stating that repeated boosters were not a "sustainable" strategy, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) also expressed doubts about giving a fourth vaccine shot to the general population.
Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccine strategy at the Amsterdam-based regulator told journalists that nobody knows exactly when we will be at the end of the tunnel but expressed optimism that we will be there.
He added that there will be a lot of natural immunity taking place on top of vaccination with the increase of immunity in population -- and with Omicron.
"We will be fast moving towards a scenario that will be closer to endemicity," he said.
Noting the huge burden on healthcare from the surge in Omicron, he urged the public to not forget that we are still in a pandemic.
The World Health Organization said earlier Tuesday that more than half of people in Europe were on track to catch the variant in the next two months.
The WHO also warned that repeated Covid boosters were not a viable strategy, comments the EU's medicines regulator echoed.
"If we have a strategy in which we give boosters every four months, we will end up potentially having problems with immune response," the EMA's Cavaleri said.
"And secondly of course there is the risk of fatigue in the population with continuous administration of boosters."
Countries should instead start thinking about spacing out boosters at longer intervals, and synchronising them with the start of the cold season in the way that flu vaccines are currently administered, Cavaleri said.
The EMA separately said that studies had confirmed that despite being more infectious, the risk of hospitalisation from the Omicron variant was between one third and one half of that posed by the Delta strain.