Health

Fauci: Americans should get vaccinated even if Merck's Covid pill cuts deaths

As the country's death toll climbed to over 700,000 in October, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an advisor to President Biden on the pandemic, indicated the need for the 70 million Americans eligible for vaccine to be vaccinated during Sunday morning interviews.

"Many of these deaths were inevitable, but many, many are preventable, were preventable and will be preventable in the future," said Dr. Fauci, who is also the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, on CNN's State of the Union.

Dr. Fauci was enthusiastic about the development of the new antiviral pill from Merck and described it as "extremely important". Announcing the results of its clinical trial last Friday, Merck said the pill could cut the risk of hospitalization and death from the virus in half.

But he also warned that Americans shouldn't wait to get vaccinated because they think they can take the pill. While the new drug can reduce a person's risk, the best way to protect it is by avoiding infection, he said.

Merck said it will seek emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its drug known as molnupiravir as soon as possible. The pills could be available by the end of this year.

Dr. Fauci pointed to the stark difference in how many people died for treatment during Merck's clinical trial, with eight in the placebo group and none among those taking the drug. "That is very impressive, so we are very much looking forward to the implementation and the effect on the infected," he said.

The federal government has pre-ordered 1.7 million doses of the new drug. But dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former F.D.A. President Trump's commissioner and Pfizer board member said the amount on CBS's Face the Nation was "not enough" and only covered infections in the southern states since the Delta variant emerged. He also contrasted that amount with the national supply of drugs to treat a pandemic flu, which he said are in the tens of millions.

Previously, Dr. Fauci returned the notion that federal officials did not get enough of the drug, saying they had placed "a good bet" on the treatment.

"We have options for millions more," he said on the program, predicting the company would ramp up production to meet demand in the United States and around the world.

Dr. Fauci was also optimistic that the country is now experiencing a slowdown in cases, signaling a possible recovery from the pandemic. "We're certainly turning a corner on this particular climb," he said during an interview with This Week on ABC News.

But he also refused to predict whether people would be able to gather freely this coming Christmas, telling CBS News that "it's just too early to say".

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