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'It ain't over:' COVID-19 won't become an endemic until the world is vaccinated


Canadians have heard it from health officials and politicians alike—it's time to start living with COVID-19.

But what does this mean and when can we consider the pandemic over?

An "endemic" is described—in its most simple definition—as a time in which there is constant presence of a virus, but it's not actively spreading.

While health officials in Canada have started to hint the country is approaching endemic rates of infection, other experts warn we may still be months away from achieving it.

On this week's episode of Life Unmasked, the team speaks with two such experts—a professor of immunology and a special advisor with the World Health Organization (WHO)—who cautions that while Canada may be faring well, COVID-19 can't be considered endemic unless the majority of people on planet earth have been vaccinated.

"To kind of channel a song that I think everyone's heard of … it ain't over till it's over," Dr. Peter Singer, Special Advisor to the Director General of the WHO, told Life Unmasked. "And it's definitely, it ain't over."

The WHO says that in order to end the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2022, they have set a goal that every country in the world should vaccinate about 70 per cent of their population. They hope to help facilitate that goal by July.

"And we're not totally on track for that," he said, adding that it's also dangerous to assume Omicron is the last COVID-19 variant of concern.

Life Unmasked also spoke with Dr. Eleanor Fish, a professor of immunology at the University of Toronto, who said there is no singular list of criteria that is used when deciding a virus is in its endemic stage. There is also the question of whether or not the virus will evolve to be more like the flu or mutate to evade immunity.

CTV News Toronto's podcast Life Unmasked airs first on the iHeart app before becoming available on other streaming platforms. If you have questions for the podcast team, or an idea for an episode, please email Top Stories

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