Dr. Scott Gottlieb believes antiviral pills and childhood vaccines are the key to ending the pandemic phase

Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Wednesday that he expects the “pandemic” phase of the US coronavirus to end as soon as vaccines become available to children and Merck antiviral pills are approved by regulators.

Another major development is that the high-transmission variant of the Covid Delta has been “moving around the country,” which will likely end around Thanksgiving, Gottlieb told CNBC correspondent David Faber in an interview with Squeak in the Street to 13D active-passive investor. Monitor. Summit in New York.

“We’re going to get a vaccine for the kids, after all, and at some point before the end of the year we’ll probably have an oral drug from Merck if things go well and are evaluated positively,” said Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner. Food and Drug Administration, who currently sits on the board of directors of Covid vaccine company Pfizer, which is also working on antiviral pills.

“I think these two things will be the end of the pandemic phase of this virus, and we are going to enter a more endemic phase where it becomes a pervasive risk, but not the extreme risk it poses. now, ”Gottlieb said.

Seasonal flu is one example of an endemic virus.

Gottlieb previously told CNBC that the US is unlikely to ever eradicate Covid completely, like other diseases such as polio and smallpox.

The FDA advisory group is set to meet on October 26 to discuss whether the use of the Pfizer Covid vaccine should be extended to children aged 5-11. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have last submitted their initial test data targeting this age group to the regulatory body. a week. The FDA has already approved the company’s vaccine for those 12 and older, including full approval for those 16 and older.

Merck said Friday that its antiviral pills, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by about 50% in trial participants who had mild to moderate cases of Covid. The companies said they plan to apply to the FDA for emergency use. “as soon as possible.”

Gottlieb said he believed children who would be eligible for vaccination and immunized people who were able to take antiviral pills in the event of a breakthrough infection would be “two very important psychological events,” especially when it comes to resuming activities. such as going back to the hospital. office.

“Many vaccinated people who are worried about returning to the office realize that the risk is low. They are vaccinated. They are unlikely to have a very bad outcome from Covid, ”said Gottlieb, who led the FDA team from 2017 to 2019 in the Trump administration. “What worries them is the return of a mild or asymptomatic infection to their home, where they may have young children or older relatives.”

Currently 76% of eligible Americans – ages 12 and older – have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, according to data collected Centers for Disease Control and Prevention… Almost 66% are fully vaccinated.

The total number of new daily coronavirus cases in the United States has been declining in recent days after the delta variant triggered a new spike in cases that hit parts of the country at various times. It began this summer, first ripping apart in the American South and then spreading to other states in the West and Midwest.

According to CNBC’s analysis of Johns Hopkins University data, the average number of new COVID cases in the United States in seven days is approximately 103,000 per day. This is 11% less than a week ago, but remains significantly higher than at the beginning of summer. In June, the average weekly number of new cases per day was below 15,000.

– CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed to this report.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC member and board member of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, healthcare technology company Aetion, and biotechnology company Illumina. He is also co-chairman of the Healthy Sail Group of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.

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