The pandemic could start moving into an endemic phase in 2022, though countries will need to stay vigilant as the omicron variant spreads, according to Moderna Inc. co-founder Noubar Afeyan.

While some countries slowly begin to consider treating COVID as an endemic disease, like the flu, World Health Organization officials have said it’s too early to make that call as cases surge. 

“2022 may be the year that the pandemic enters an endemic phase, but it really depends on what happens and the decisions that are made across the world,” Afeyan said in a Bloomberg Television interview Friday with Francine Lacqua. Although omicron is highly transmissible,“on the other hand it’s having a lesser effect in terms of seriousness of disease,” he said.

For now, the world remains in the pandemic’s grasp, Afeyan wrote in a letter published this week on the website of Flagship Pioneering, the venture-capital firm he leads. Afeyan said he was among the millions of people who contracted the omicron variant going into the holiday season.

Moderna’s omicron-specific booster shot could enter into human trials within weeks, Afeyan said Friday, reiterating comments Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel made earlier this week. The CEO said he expected another booster would be needed in the fall, and it is likely to contain a component tailored to omicron.

“We will be ready with our testing starting in weeks,” Afeyan said Friday. “Whether we need a booster rather in the spring than the fall is something that we’re going to have to work with officials all around the world to sort out.”

Shares of Moderna were down 3.9 per cent at 11:19 a.m. in New York. They have gained 56 per cent in the past year. 

Moderna, along with Pfizer Inc. and its partner BioNTech SE, developed highly effective COVID-19 vaccines based on messenger RNA technology. Moderna said earlier this week that it has signed vaccine purchase agreements worth US$18.5 billion for this year, along with options for another US$3.5 billion, including booster shots.