Is the COVID-19 pandemic now endemic?

As of 5 May 2023, COVID-19 is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.1 However, it has not yet reached endemic status, which is when a disease is restricted to a particular region or area, and while constantly present, is at manageable levels.2

Why hasn’t COVID-19 been downgraded to endemic status yet?

While the number of cases and deaths are at the lowest level since the pandemic began, millions of people continue to be infected or re-infected with COVID-19 globally, and thousands are still dying each week. New variants may also continue to emerge, which could cause fresh surges in infection and deaths.3 Though there is hope that the COVID-19 pandemic is transitioning to become endemic, there is still a lot of uncertainty.3

Adapting to a longer-term COVID-19 plan

In response to this current status of COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) has provided an updated Global Strategic Preparedness, Readiness and Response Plan for 2023-2025.3 The previous plan, released in 2022, had two strategic objectives: to reduce the circulation of COVID-19, and to diagnose and treat COVID-19 to reduce mortality (death), morbidity (illness/symptoms), and long-term complications. The updated plan adds a third objective: to support countries as they transition from an emergency response to longer-term sustained disease prevention, control and management.3

What does this mean for Italy?

As the first European country to experience the devastation of COVID-19, and to introduce stringent lockdown measures,4 Italy has been at the forefront of COVID-19 management and response. The first official COVID-19 vaccination campaign began on 27 December 2020, and vaccine distribution in Italy commenced on 31 December 2021.5 As of 4 October 2023, around 50 million people in Italy had been vaccinated against COVID-19, which is approximately 85% of the total population. In the age group most vulnerable to the virus, those 80 years and older, almost 96% have been vaccinated.6

In line with the WHO’s 2023-2025 COVID-19 plan, Italy’s efforts to manage the impact and spread of COVID-19 continues with an upcoming national COVID-19 vaccination campaign for the 2023/24 season.7 The goal of the campaign is to prevent hospitalisations and severe illness from COVID-19 in people aged 60 and over, as well as those in high-risk categories, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, and health and care workers.

More information

If you have any questions about COVID-19 and/or COVID-19 vaccines, please speak to your doctor or healthcare professional.

Dirk Poelaert of Novavax
Dirk Poelaert, MD
Senior Director, Medical Affairs
  1. Is the COVID-19 pandemic now endemic?
  2. Epidemic, endemic, pandemic: What are the differences? Columbia Mailman School of Public Health 2021. Available at: [Accessed November 2023]
  3. From emergency response to long-term COVID-19 disease management: Sustaining gains made during the COVID-19 pandemic. World Health Organization 2023. Available at [Accessed November 2023]
  4. Bosa I et al. Health Econ Policy Law. 2022;17(1):1–13.
  5. National COVID-19 vaccination plan. Istituto Superiore di Sanità 2021. Available at [Accessed November 2023]
  6. Vaccination rate against COVID-19 in Italy as of October 4, 2023, by age group. Statista 2023. Available at [Accessed November 2023]
  7. Covid-19 vaccination campaign 2023/2024. Ministry of Health, 2023. Available at [Accessed November 2023]