Pfizer board member Gottlieb says Covid pandemic could be over in US by January – Community News
Covid-19

Pfizer board member Gottlieb says Covid pandemic could be over in US by January

The Covid-19 pandemic could be over in the US by the time President Joe Biden’s mandate for workplace vaccines takes effect in early January, Pfizer board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine requirements begin Jan. 4 for any company with at least 100 employees. About 84 million private sector workers must receive either their second Moderna or Pfizer injection or one dose of Johnson & Johnson by that date or they will be tested regularly for the virus.

“These mandates, which will come into effect on Jan. 4, really come to the end of this pandemic,” said Gottlieb, who is also a former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. “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 that comply with OSHA’s new rules must also begin enforcing indoor mask mandates for unvaccinated workers beginning Dec. 5. Those staff must also start submitting weekly Covid negative tests after January 4 to enter the workplace, and anyone who tests positive must be quarantined.

The federal mandate includes exemptions for religious and medical reasons. Employees who only work outside the home, at home or in environments where others are not present are also exempt from the rules.

OSHA’s guidelines don’t require companies to pay for their employees’ Covid tests or masks, but any company caught evading the rules could face fines of anywhere from $13,653 to $136,532 for intentional non-compliance .

Gottlieb’s comments came in the wake of data from Pfizer indicating that the Covid antiviral pill, when combined with an HIV drug, reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% in adults at risk of serious complications. Combining the pill with an HIV medication slowed down the metabolism, allowing the antiviral Covid to work longer in the body.

Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla said in an interview with “Squawk Box” Friday morning before Gottlieb spoke that the company will file data on the therapy with the FDA before Thanksgiving.

Gottlieb said Pfizer’s new drug should not be viewed as a replacement for vaccinating more Americans against the virus, adding that he thought periodic Covid vaccinations and changes to the vaccines might be necessary to move forward. But he noted that antivirals could help treat cases in a range of high-risk individuals.

“When you have therapies that are that effective, that can be a backstop for people for whom vaccines don’t work, people with breakthrough infections — pills are being studied in that setting,” Gottlieb said. “It’s really a safety net against death and disease from this infection.”

Pfizer’s announcement comes a month after Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said they had developed an antiviral drug that reduced the number of hospitalizations and deaths from Covid by 50% in patients with to moderate cases. The United Kingdom approved Merck’s treatment on Thursday.

CNBCs Berkeley Lovelace, Leslie Josephs and Spencer Kimball contributed to this report.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a contributor to CNBC and serves on the boards of directors of Pfizer, the genetic testing start-up Tempus, healthcare technology company Aetion and biotech company Illumina. He is also co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean’s Healthy Sail Panel.

Correction: OSHA’s new rules require employees to submit Covid negative tests weekly to enter the workplace after Jan. 4, and anyone who tests positive must be quarantined. The rules were wrong in an earlier version.