Sep 1, 2020 - Economy & Business

Eli Lilly CEO: There is "strong argument" for U.S. to share coronavirus vaccine

Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks, whose company has a coronavirus treatment in Phase 3 of clinical trials, told "Axios on HBO" that it'd be smart to share with other countries rather than going America first.

The big picture: 66% of Americans don't want to share a vaccine right away with the rest of the world if the U.S. gets there first, according to a recent Harris poll, Axios' Sam Baker reported last week.

  • Ricks, incoming chair of the industry group PhRMA, told Mike Allen the goal would be to "protect as much of the planet as we can, versus looking after only one country by itself — creating an island, which would be, I think, illusory."

But Ricks made a 2-part case for why that is shortsighted.

  • Reason 1: "[I]f an individual country exceeds, let's say there's a category of people ... that have the highest risk and we vaccinate all of them. Should we go to the next category of risk or share it with others who have that same, I think humanitarian principles would say we should share at that point."
  • Reason 2: "[W]e have to recognize back to the point on public health that this is a shared risk, not an individual risk. So if in an imaginary world we had protected our risk groups A, B and C, but no one else had protected any of theirs, meaning other countries, we still run the risk of people traveling to the US and infecting more and more people.

Between the lines: Ricks noted that the FDA is using a "low bar" for evaluating COVID-19 vaccines, which he defended as "probably appropriate" because of the urgency of the pandemic.

  • "[T]he FDA standard ... for vaccine effectiveness is a 50 percent response, meaning that half the people have an adequate response to retain antibodies and mount their own immune response to the disease without getting sick initially."

The bottom line: "I think the strongest global interest is to vaccinate as many high risk people as possible," Ricks said.

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