S5-EP14: (Best Of) Plague Expert Nicholas Christakis on Why the Pandemic Will End in 2024

Apr 28, 2023


Debbie re-runs the single most popular of 100+ episodes of [B]OLDER. Two years ago, in 2021, she asked plague expert Nicholas Christakis, a Yale professor and author, the burning question: when will the COVID-19 pandemic end? His answer: 2024. That startled her. Now it makes sense. And of course, it was prescient.



Debbie re-runs the single most popular of 100+ episodes of [B]OLDER. Exactly two years ago, in the spring of 2021, she asked plague expert Nicholas Christakis, a distinguished Yale professor and author,  the burning question: when will the COVID-19 pandemic end? 

His answer: 2024. It startled her and burst her bubble of optimism. Vaccines were widely available by then and it seemed like the beginning of the end. Surely he was exaggerating how long it would take for the COVID pandemic to wind down? No, it was only the end of the beginning, he told her.

Today that makes sense. And of course, it was prescient.

Tune into a re-run of one of the most fascinating episodes of [B]OLDER. (Note that Debbie refers to it as The Gap Year Podcast, the name she gave the podcast during the height of the pandemic. It’s now the [B]OLDER podcast. Same podcast; different name.)




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SHOW NOTES from the original interview with Nicholas Christakis (May 7, 2021)

Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, and a Sterling Professor at Yale, has been named to TIME magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. His fluency in explaining the intertwined science, epidemiology, psychology, sociology and history of pandemics – and his sense of humor – make this a compelling episode. 

  • You’ll hear why he chose to publish his latest book, Apollo’s Arrow, in the fall of 2020, before we knew the end of the story of COVID-19
  • How his childhood experiences with illness and death affected his career choices
  • What the predictable three phases of a pandemic are (in 2021 we were still in the immediate phase)
  • Why he thinks this pandemic won’t be over until 2024
  • They also talked about separating the biological vs. the psychological impacts of the pandemic
  • What herd immunity actually means and whether we’ll get there
  • And what the public health messaging around the pandemic should be

Debbie asks him point blank: when is the next pandemic? The answer is unnerving – sooner than you might think.


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Thanks to our media partners

Encore.org, our newest media partner, is an ideas and innovation hub tapping the talent of those 50+ as a force for good. Founder and CEO Marc Freedman is an award-winning social entrepreneur and author, most recently, of How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations. Looking for a great gap-year transition program? Check out Encore Fellowships, which match skilled, seasoned professionals with social-sector organizations in high-impact, paid assignments.


Modern Elder Academy is a program dedicated to navigating mid-life transitions. MEA, based in Baja California, Mexico, provides the place and the tools to start reframing your lifetime of experience. Grow whole, not old. Founder Chip Conley is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning hospitality entrepreneur and a rock star of the mid-life transition movement. His newest book is Wisdom @ Work: the Making of a Modern Elder.


Next For Me is an important new resource for the 50+ crowd focused on rewriting life. Taking a gap year or timeout may be the best way to figure out "what's next" when you're in this stage of life. Founder Jeff Tidwell explains, Next For Me "connects and inspires our generation to evolve our post-50 lives through new work, a new purpose, or a new social contribution."