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Gottlieb sees 2022 as COVID-19 'transition year,' despite omicron
Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said 2022 will still be a "transition year" for COVID-19 despite the omicron variant.
"I still think this is going to be a transition year," Gottlieb said on Tuesday in an appearance on CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith."
Gottlieb said he expects COVID-19 to "go from a pandemic into a more endemic phase" in 2022; however, it could happen later in the year due to the rising cases from the omicron variant.
The variant has quickly swept the world after it was announced at the end of November, as it is already in 50 countries and dozens of states in the U.S.
Pfizer-BioNTech announced on Wednesday that preliminary studies show a booster shot of its coronavirus vaccine provides protection against omicron.
Gottlieb said omicron has a "divergent evolution" that could stun the world "even after the population has a lot of immunity from infection."
However, he says immunity from previous infections seems to be quelling some of the most severe symptoms of the virus.
"The reason why you're seeing less severe disease and fewer hospitalizations relative to cases is many people in South Africa had infection with delta," Gottlieb said. "So when they're getting re-infected with this variant, maybe their delta immunity isn't protective against infection but protecting them against symptomatic disease and severe outcomes."
Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said in November that the U.S. is still not at the level for the pandemic to transition to an endemic.
"I don't think we're going to eliminate it completely. We want control and I think the confusion is at what level of control are you going to accept it in its endemicity?" Fauci said during a White House briefing.
"We don't know really what that number is, but we will know it when we get there. It certainly is far, far lower than 80,000 new infections per day, and is far, far lower than a thousand deaths per day, and tens of thousands of hospitalizations," he added.