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The Merck logo. Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday that it will meet on Nov. 30th to review Merck's experimental oral antiviral COVID-19 treatment

Why it matters: An oral antiviral drug designed to prevent or treat COVID-19 could be a key tool to combat the pandemic. Merck ended its vaccine development in January.

Driving the news: On Monday, Merck and Ridgeback submitted an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the drug, molnupiravir, soon after announcing the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by about 50% in a clinical trial.

  • The FDA opted not to skip the advisory committee step, Bloomberg News notes, which it can do occasionally to get a drug to market faster. That means the drug might not be available to the public, if approved, until December or early next year.

Details: The review will focus on whether the available data supports the use of molnupiravir in treating mild-to-moderate COVID-19 cases in "adults who have tested positive for COVID-19, and who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death," per the FDA release.

What they're saying: "We believe that, in this instance, a public discussion of these data with the agency’s advisory committee will help ensure clear understanding of the scientific data and information that the FDA is evaluating to make a decision about whether to authorize this treatment for emergency use," said Patrizia Cavazzoni, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Go deeper

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
17 hours ago - Health

COVID vaccines for kids are getting closer

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Millions of kids under 12 could begin getting COVID-19 shots "within the first week or two of November," NIAID director Anthony Fauci said on ABC News' "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" over the weekend.

Why it matters: This would be a major milestone for getting approximately 28 million more kids protected as they prepare to gather with family during the holidays and spend more time indoors due to cold weather.

17 hours ago - Health

A choose-your-own COVID booster adventure

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

COVID-19 boosters are now available for many adults who want one.

  • But the various combinations of who should get one and when now that mixing and matching shots got the OK just made the process much more complex.

Why it matters: The CDC has yet to issue final clinical guidance but the panel's discussions and interim clinical considerations last week show picking whatever shot they want leaves room for confusion.

20 hours ago - Health

DeSantis touts bonuses for unvaccinated police who relocate to Florida

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference Friday in Kissimmee, Fla. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans Sunday to "hopefully sign" legislation to provide a $5,000 bonus to police officers who relocate to Florida in order to avoid COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Why it matters: The governor's pledge during an appearance on Fox News comes amid escalating tensions with the Biden administration over its upcoming vaccine requirement for federal workers.