Several pharmaceutical companies have been working on a pill to treat COVID-19 patients and two have advanced forward. Here’s how the COVID pill will change travel.
Merck, Pfizer Announce COVID Antiviral Pills
Two pharmaceutical giants, Merck (with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics) and Pfizer have issued press releases outlining their antiviral drugs for treating COVID-19. The oral antiviral pills that each have developed help those who have contracted the virus rather than preventing contraction altogether.
This is of particular importance as vaccination rates have stagnated in the United States, and recent studies have shown that the efficacy of the vaccines wanes between three and six months following full vaccination. Those who have been vaccinated are encouraged to get boosters (in many cases, before other nations have received ample supply) due to this reduced effectiveness.
“The Oxford University study found at the time that 90 days after a second shot of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine, their efficacy in preventing infections had slipped to 75% and 61% respectively. That was down from 85% and 68%, respectively, seen two weeks after a second dose.” – Reuters
Continual boosters in perpetuity are unlikely to maintain high participation levels as we have seen with annual flu shots which, prior to the pandemic, saw about 25% utilization. The pill more or less eliminates the need for boosters and some might argue for vaccination at all.
Clinical trial results demonstrated a far lower risk of hospitalization and death. Rather than rewrite the genetic code as the vaccines do, these drugs:
“Both are protease inhibitors, which means they block a different enzyme (called a protease) that cuts apart long strands of nonfunctional viral proteins into smaller, functional proteins. PF-07321332 is the star of the show in the drug duo, working on the virus itself, while ritonavir stops other enzymes from destroying PF-07321332. Ritonavir plays the same defensive role in antiviral drug cocktails that treat HIV.” – NBC
Side effects were noted to be similar to placebo in the trials.
COVID Pill Bottom Line
Providing links and background about the pills are important (please read the articles included in the links.) While the pills offered by Merck and Pfizer do not “cure” COVID-19, cutting down on the severity of cases is an important advancement. Using the pill for COVID-19 antiviral treatment can help those who might have high risk factors like those with a history of heart disease or older age people who may have been advised against the vaccines due to those risk factors.
Pills are (big pun) easier to swallow for those around the world but especially for Americans.
“Americans love pills – that’s why I think this is going to be the game-changer.”
— Real Time with Bill Maher (@RealTimers) October 2, 2021
COVID International Travel Restrictions
COVID travel restrictions are a messy web of mixed qualifiers, waivers, differing permissions, quarantine requirements and processes. Some vaccines are accepted here but not there. Some countries require a negative test 96 hours in advance of travel, most 72 hours, the United States requires a negative test just 24 hours prior to entry.
As I outlined in another post, what it means to be “fully-vaccinated” could change as well with booster requirements added as Israel has done.
In other countries around the world, vaccination remains low. Exceptions like Canada, much of Europe, and Oceania don’t face this issue, but for residents of countries that have limited access to vaccination, low rates persist. Countries like China have high vaccination rates from Sinopharm and Coronavac, however these shots are excluded from the acceptable vaccine list for entry to many countries; they now have a solution to traveling again. In fact, half of the total vaccination shots administered (7.3 billion) were from those two Chinese vaccines.
With an approved (the pill has not yet passed FDA approval) COVID pill, vaccination could be encouraged, but not required. Tests would remain in place for countries that deem it necessary, but with a solution in place, a negative test would not have to bar entry necessarily. Quarantine requirements could vanish and countries could fully re-open.
Solves The Natural Immunity Dilemma
Currently, the United States does not recognize natural immunity as a valid replacement for vaccination outside of the first 90-days following a COVID recovery – and even that is simply because a person may still test positive during that period despite recovery from the virus.
For those with natural immunity who remain resistant, hesitant, or skeptical of the vaccines it poses a logical problem. If the antibodies are present at the time of travel, the traveler is no more likely to contract or pass on COVID-19 so why get the shot? Dr. Sanjay Gupta posed this question to Dr. Fauci a few weeks ago and Dr. Fauci, to his credit, had no “firm response.”
Treating this infectious disease outside of the hospital system is the key to being able to resume as close as we can get to life as we knew it. Acceptable vaccines, methods, boosters, and quarantines can all go away if COVID can be effectively treated. Requirements for testing could be standardized and global travel could re-open.
What do you think? Is a COVID-19 pill (these or others developed) going to re-open borders?