Drugs and vaccines may not swiftly end pandemic, says Merck & Co’s CEO
Merck & Co’s CEO Kenneth Frazier has warned that the drugs and vaccines in the pipeline to combat COVID-19 may not be enough to swiftly end the pandemic.
Speaking to CNBC, Frazier said that the drugs and vaccines to treat COVID-19 are not a “silver bullet” solution to the pandemic, meaning people are likely to be wearing masks and practicing social distancing measures well into 2021
He told CNBC’s Squawk Box: “I don’t see the therapeutics that we have – or the vaccines that are coming – as a silver bullet.
“I would say certainly well into 2021 we’ll still be trying to observe these public health measures.”
Frazier said he is “very optimistic that in the near future” there will be positive results coming from late-stage clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
A potential vaccine is unlikely to be widely available for people until mid-2021, Frazier noted.
It’s expected that vaccines will only work in around 70% of cases and Dr Anthony Fauci, White House coronavirus adviser, said that the likelihood of a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine providing coverage in around 98% of people is slim.
Frazier added: “The natural history of viruses is that they don’t go away.
“I don’t think we should tell people that they can expect to give up on those public health measures anytime soon.”
US-based Merck & Co is developing two separate potential COVID-19 vaccines, one from the Australian vaccine manufacture Themis that it acquired in July and with scientific non-profit organisation IAVI.
However the company known as MSD outside North America is well behind the leaders in the COVID-19 vaccine race, which according to the World Health Organization are phase 3 candidates from China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm, followed by the UK’s AstraZeneca.
Frazier made his comments as the US sees a deadly surge of the coronavirus just as voters go to the polls to decide whether incumbent Republican president Donald Trump stays on for another four years, or is replaced by his Democrat rival Joe Biden.
Trump’s handling of the pandemic has been a focus point in the campaigns for the White House, with nearly 9.4 million confirmed cases and 231,000 deaths attributed to the disease.
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