Covid-19 antiviral pill could be a game-changer, but vaccines are still America’s way out of pandemic, experts say
By Aya Elamroussi, CNN
A pill that could potentially treat Covid-19 is a ‘game changer’, but experts stress that it is not an alternative to vaccinations – which remain the most effective way to end the pandemic of coronavirus if enough people get vaccinated.
Still, the average number of people vaccinated – at 270,531 – is the lowest since August 15, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday. Just over 65% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, according to the data.
At the same time, the United States took a grim step on Friday by surpassing 700,000 deaths from Covid-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The United States leads the world in Covid-19 deaths, followed by Brazil with nearly 600,000 deaths, the data shows.
News from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on Friday that they have created an antiviral pill that can reduce Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths by 50% has been hailed by health experts, although they have warned that this would not replace vaccinations.
“It can be used in conjunction with the vaccine. And it is not an alternative to vaccination. We still have to try to get more people vaccinated, ”Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner, told CNN on Friday.
Gottlieb acknowledged that the antiviral drug could be effective for those who choose not to be vaccinated as well as for those who catch the virus when they are fully vaccinated.
“This is the most impactful result I can remember seeing from a drug available orally in the treatment of a respiratory pathogen, possibly ever,” Gottlieb told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I think getting an oral pill that can inhibit viral replication – which can inhibit this virus – is going to be a real game-changer.”
Merck said Friday it would seek emergency use clearance from the FDA for its drug molnupiravir “as soon as possible.” If licensed, it would become the first oral drug that fights viral infection for Covid-19.
“If approved, I think the right way to think about it is that it is a potential additional tool in our toolbox to protect people from the worst consequences of Covid,” said on Friday. White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients.
Zients echoed Gottlieb’s position on vaccination, stressing that inoculation remains “by far our best tool against Covid-19” because injections can prevent people from getting infected in the first place.
“And we want to prevent infections, not just wait to treat them once they happen,” Zients said.
Meanwhile, Louisiana reported on Friday that a child four years or younger has died from Covid-19. It was the state’s 17th pediatric death from the virus.
“We owe it to ourselves, our children and everyone around us to enjoy the best protection we have – the vaccine and the wearing of a mask,” said Dr Joseph Kanter, manager. Louisiana State Health Department.
The Delta variant of the coronavirus has made childhood infections much more common than at the start of the pandemic.
More reminder discussions to come
Americans who have received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines can expect to hear the next steps in the booster shots this month.
The FDA will meet with its Vaccines and Related Biologics Advisory Committee on October 14 and 15 to discuss recalls for these vaccines, which have only been cleared for emergency use in those 18 and older. The committee will also review data on the “mix and match” use of boosters, the agency said on Friday.
Only Pfizer’s two-dose Covid-19 vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for people 12 years of age and older. The Pfizer recall is cleared for emergency use in people 65 years of age and older, people at high risk of serious illness, and people whose work puts them at risk of infection.
More than 4.03 million people have received an additional dose of the Covid-19 vaccine – or booster – since August 13.
The FDA vaccine committee is also expected to discuss Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 on October 26. Pfizer has started submitting data on this age group to the agency but has yet to formally apply for emergency use authorization.
The committee of independent advisers generally discusses and makes recommendations to the FDA on vaccine authorizations and approvals. Then the agency makes the final decision.
Vaccination mandates continue to come into play
While federal health officials consider booster shots, vaccination mandates are being implemented more broadly – and some are not happy with the move.
American Airlines told its U.S. employees on Friday that they must follow the Biden administration’s requirement to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The airline noted that its business with the federal government means it will be covered by the warrant, but did not say when the requirement would go into effect.
Religious and disability-related exemptions will be available, but there will be no “provision of an alternative to regular testing,” the airline said.
“While we are still working on the details of the federal requirements, it is clear that team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines,” according to a CNN memo obtained from senior management. airline and sent to employees.
Meanwhile, Ochsner Health in Louisiana has said it will charge employees enrolled in their next 2022 health care benefits a fee for spouses and domestic partners who are not vaccinated against Covid-19.
“This is not a warrant, as non-employed spouses and domestic partners may choose to select a health plan outside of Ochsner Health’s offerings. As with our employee vaccination policy, spouses and domestic partners with medical and religious objections will be able to file exemption requests, ”Ochsner Health President and CEO Warner Thomas said in a statement. this week.
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CNN’s Naomi Thomas, Virginia Langmaid, Jamie Gumbrecht, Gregory Wallace, Rebekah Riess, Lauren Mascarenhas contributed to this report.