Health

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

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The Covid-19 pandemic could be over in the U.S. when President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates go into effect in early January, Pfizer board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb at CNBC’s “Squawk Box” 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 will have to have either their second Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, a dose from Johnson & Johnson, or have regular tests for the virus by that date.

“These mandates, which will be introduced by January 4th, really come at the end of this pandemic,” said Gottlieb, who is also a former commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration. “By January 4th, this pandemic could be over, at least as far as the United States is concerned, after we weather this wave of delta infections. And we will find ourselves in an endemic phase of this virus. “

All companies that comply with the new OSHA rules must also begin enforcing mask requirements for unvaccinated employees indoors on December 5. These employees are also required to submit weekly negative Covid tests to enter the workplace starting January 4, and anyone who tests positive should be quarantined.

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

OSHA guidelines do not require companies to pay for their employees’ Covid tests or masks, but any company caught circumventing the rules could be fined between $ 13,653 and $ 136,532 for willful non-compliance .

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

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, said in an interview with Squawk Box on Friday morning before Gottlieb spoke that the company would provide the FDA with data on the therapeutic drug before Thanksgiving.

Gottlieb said Pfizer’s new drug shouldn’t be seen as a substitute for vaccinating more Americans against the virus, adding that regular Covid shots and vaccine changes may be necessary in the future. However, he noted that antivirals could help treat cases in a number of high-risk individuals.

“If you have therapeutics that are so effective, it can be a support for people who vaccines don’t work on, people who have breakthrough infections – this is the environment in which pills are studied,” said Gottlieb. “It really is a backing against death and illness from this infection.”

Pfizer’s announcement comes a month after Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics announced that they had developed an antiviral that reduces hospital admissions and deaths from Covid by 50% in patients with up to moderate cases. The UK approved Merck’s treatment on Thursday.

– CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace, Leslie Josephs and Spencer Kimball contributed to this coverage.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the board of directors of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, health technology company Aetion, and biotechnology 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 negative Covid tests weekly after Jan 4th to enter the workplace, and anyone who tests positive should be quarantined. In a previous version the rules were specified incorrectly.

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