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An oral antiviral drug to stop the virus that causes COVID-19 from replicating could be ready next year "if all goes right," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Tuesday, adding that the drug should work against all variants of the virus.

Why it matters: Antiviral drugs can be a key pandemic-fighting tool, since not everyone will get a vaccine and it may take years to fully vaccinate people in certain countries around the world, Axios' Alison Snyder reports.

Of note: So far, remdesivir — a drug investigated earlier to treat Ebola and other diseases — is the only antiviral approved in the U.S. for COVID-19.

What they're saying: Bourla said Pfizer is working on two antiviral drugs, one injectable and the other oral.

  • "Particularly, the attention is on the oral," Bourla said,"because it provides several advantages. One of them is you don't have to go to the hospital to get the treatment, which is the case with all of the injectables so far. You can get it at home. That would be a game-changer."
  • He said the antiviral drug should be "way more effective against multiple variants."

What's next: Bourla said the company would have more news about the drug around summer.

Go deeper

Aug 5, 2021 - Health

Booster shots for the immunocompromised likely coming soon

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Biden administration is actively working toward making a recommendation that certain immunocompromised people receive an additional dose of coronavirus vaccine, two sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: Two shots of Pfizer and Moderna's mRNA vaccines don't generate strong levels of protection in some immunocompromised people. But data suggests a third shot could significantly boost their response.

Aug 4, 2021 - Health

Illinois announces mask mandate for schools, vaccinations for state workers

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced Wednesday that the state would institute a mask mandate for preschool through high school students and staff and a vaccine mandate for some state employees.

Why it matters: The move comes as surging COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant in Illinois have led to rising hospitalization, ICU occupancy and ventilator use rates, per the governor's press release.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Aug 5, 2021 - Health

Nursing homes' vaccine challenge

Resident Douglass Tozzini gets his mask adjusted by caregiver Joseph Salazar at Gordon Manor assisted-care facility in Redwood City, Calif. on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

It's becoming more urgent to vaccinate the staff that care for vulnerable nursing home patients. But the industry, which has been plagued with workforce issues, faces a major challenge when it comes to mandating shots, the New York Times reports.

By the numbers: Nursing homes had seen major drops in infections after becoming one of the major hotspots for cases and deaths earlier on in the pandemic. But those numbers have reversed in recent weeks, CDC data shows.