Gottlieb: ‘Pandemic phase’ will end with approval of antiviral pills, vaccines for children

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Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC in an interview on Wednesday that he anticipated the “pandemic phase” of COVID-19 would end with the approval of vaccines for children under 12 years old and antiviral pills.

“So if I was trying to put an endpoint on when this delta wave kind of has moved through the country, it’s probably Thanksgiving and then on the back end of that, we’re going to have hopefully a vaccine available for children,” Gottlieb said on CNBC.

“And at some point before the end of the year we probably will have the orally available drug from Merck if things go well, and that undergoes a favorable review, and I think those two things are going to be sort of the bookend on the sort of pandemic phase of this virus,” he added.

He explained that once those two events occurred, the United States would transition into an “endemic phase,” in which the country would learn to manage and live with the virus. The flu is an example of an endemic. 

Pfizer announced in late September that its initial testing data in children aged 5 to 11 years old had been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. Though the company has not officially applied for emergency authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine in children within that age group, an announcement is expected soon.

According to CNBC, the topic of whether the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should be used for children aged 5 to 11 years will be discussed in a FDA advisory panel later this month.

So far, only the Pfizer vaccine is available for children aged 12 years and older, but the move to expand the vaccine to children younger than that is one many health care professionals, educators and parents are seeking given that children under 12 are now more vulnerable in contracting and spreading COVID-19, particularly after in-person learning has resumed.

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical company Merck said that its new oral antiviral COVID-19 treatment, which is being developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, shows great potential in reducing hospitalization and death among patients.

According to the company’s data of phase three trials, 7.3 percent of people treated with the oral drug were hospitalized within 29 days compared to 14.1 percent of people treated with a placebo who were either hospitalized or died by the end of the trial.

Gottlieb told CNBC last week that the treatment was a “profound game-changer.”

Tags BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine FDA Merck Pfizer Scott Gottlieb
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