The Covid-19 pandemic could be over in the U.S. by the time President Joe Biden’s workplace vaccination orders take effect in early January, Pfizer board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Friday.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration vaccine requirements begin January 4 for any company with at least 100 employees. About 84 million private sector workers must receive either a second Moderna or Pfizer shot, one dose from Johnson & Johnson by that date, or they must be routinely tested for the virus.
“These mandates, which will go into effect by January 4, are really nearing the end of this pandemic,” said Gottlieb, who is also a former FDA commissioner. “By January 4, this pandemic may well be over, at least as far as the United States is concerned, after we get through this delta wave of infection. And we will be in a more endemic phase of this virus. ”
All companies complying with the new OSHA regulations must also begin enforcing mask requirements for unvaccinated workers’ premises starting December 5th. These personnel must also begin taking weekly negative Covid tests after January 4 to return to the workplace, and anyone who tested positive must be quarantined.
The federal mandate contains exemptions for religious and medical reasons. Employees who work exclusively outdoors, at home, or in places where there are no others are also exempt from the rules.
OSHA guidelines do not require companies to pay for Covid tests or masks for their employees, but any company found to have evaded the rules could face fines ranging from $ 13,653 to $ 136,532 for willful non-compliance.
Gottlieb’s comments followed Pfizer’s data showing her Covid antiviral pill combined with HIV medication reduced the likelihood of hospitalization or death by 89% in adults at risk of serious complications. Combining a pill with an HIV medication slows down the metabolism, allowing the Covid antiviral drug to work longer in the body.
Pfizer CEO Albert Burla said in an interview with Squawk Box on Friday morning before Gottlieb issued a statement that the company will submit the therapeutic data to the FDA before Thanksgiving.
Gottlieb said Pfizer’s new drug should not be seen as a substitute for vaccinating more Americans against the virus, adding that he believes periodic Covid vaccinations and vaccine changes may be required going forward. But he noted that antiviral drugs can help treat a variety of diseases in people at high risk.
“When you have such effective therapeutic drugs, it can be a mainstay for people for whom vaccines do not work, people who have breakthrough infections – in such an environment, pills are being studied,” Gottlieb said. “It really is a defense against death and disease from this infection.”
Pfizer’s announcement came a month after Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said they had created an antiviral that reduced Covid hospitalizations and deaths by 50% in patients with mild cases. On Thursday, the United Kingdom authorized Merck’s treatment.
– CNBC Berkeley Lovelace, Leslie Josephs and Spencer Kimball 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 Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ and Royal Caribbean’s “Healthy Sail Panel”.
Bugfix: New OSHA rules require employees to start taking weekly negative Covid tests after January 4 in order to enter the workplace, and anyone who tests positive must be quarantined. In an earlier version, the rules were distorted.