Vaccines represented the initial breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19. For millions, they promised a return to normalcy. But even FDA approval didn’t convince everyone of their efficacy and safety. As the pandemic continues its slow burn, booster shots for all to prolong protective immunity are almost here. Not that it should come as too much of a surprise. Most of us reading this article received boosters after routine vaccinations as children to prevent measles, mumps, rubella and varicella, to name a few contagious diseases.
Per Hot Air:
Merck has been notably absent from America’s vaccine offensive against the virus, having seen its vaccine candidate go bust in trials earlier this year. But its effort to nuke the virus on the back end, after someone is already infected with it, looks like a smash success based on the data it released this morning. It partnered with a firm called Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to develop an antiviral called molnupiravir. An antiviral to treat COVID already exists, of course: That’s remdesivir, which was authorized for emergency use many months ago. But remdesivir’s effect on the progression of the disease is modest and it needs to be administered by a medical tech via IV.
Molnupiravir is a pill. And its effect isn’t so modest.
The pill was offered in trials exclusively to unvaccinated people who’d already begun experiencing symptoms as many as five days earlier, giving the virus a considerable head start on generating a severe infection. Even so, no one who received the drug died. And it was effective against multiple variants, including Delta.
It’s Tamiflu for COVID, essentially — except it actually works. In light of Merck’s data, imagine how effective it might be at preventing severe illness if it were prescribed immediately after someone tested positive, within the first day or two of symptoms, instead of five days later. It could even be used as a prophylactic in theory to prevent or limit infection in someone who was exposed to the virus in a high-risk setting but isn’t yet symptomatic.
Epidemiologists look at a variety of factors when determining their short-term and long-term projections for the pandemic. Though their estimates vary, modelers widely agree that three variables will determine the overall impact of COVID-19: whether people develop lasting immunity, how seasonality continues to affect the spread and what actions individuals and governments take to mitigate transmission.
Having access to an orally administered drug that prevents COVID-19 from replicating inside the body represents nothing less than a scientific breakthrough that will change the practice of medicine forever.