U.S. Markets open in 5 hrs 11 mins
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Vaccinations have mitigated rise of COVID-19 variants: COVID-19 National Task Force Chair

In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Dr. Adam Brown, Emergency Physician and COVID-19 National Task Force Chair at Envision Healthcare discusses Merck's new COVID-19 pill and trends in COVID-19 case counts.

Video Transcript

JARED BLIKRE: And we want to keep talking about this and for that, we're going to bring in Dr. Adam Brown. He is the emergency physician in COVID-19 national task force chair at Envision Healthcare. Doctor, thank you for joining us here. And I know you were just listening to what Anjalee was breaking down. Is this really the game-changer that people seem to be reacting to right now?

ADAM BROWN: Well, first, thanks for having me today. You know, I'm encouraged by what we're seeing coming out from Merck here, that there is a potential treatment for COVID-19 once someone gets it. And so I think what's important for folks to remember, though, is that we've delivered over 5 billion vaccines around the world that, most cases, prevent people from getting COVID in the first place.

And so while I'm encouraged to see that this may be another tool in our toolkit that we can use in our hospitals or even outside of our hospitals, what I am a little bit concerned about is people will chase after this and see, ah, I don't need to get vaccinated. And the fact is that we know that if you are vaccinated, you prevent 90% of hospitalizations, severe infections, and even death. So this is great news, but it's a piece of the puzzle of how we treat this pandemic and treat patients with COVID-19. But let's just prevent COVID-19 in the first place by getting everyone vaccinated.

JARED BLIKRE: I hear you on that one. I want to dig into this a little bit more. We have some competitor drugs on the market. I was specifically looking at some other companies whose stocks were spiking. Is this a new class of drugs that we're dealing with here? What does the competition look like?

ADAM BROWN: Well, I would have to look at some of the different competitions and see exactly the formulation of their drugs. What we do know about the Merck drug is that it does act a little differently than, say, the vaccine. So the vaccine attacks the outside of the virus and prevents the virus from essentially being incorporated into the body-- and I'm simplifying it a bit. But the Merck drug that we're seeing on the market prevents the virus from replicating or multiplying or growing in the body.

And so I think this is an important type of signal in that if these drugs like this can come out on the market and can be targeted towards things like the Delta variant and potentially work against other variants without the potential of having to be changed or altered when mutations occur, this could be a really good thing in our fight against COVID-19. So again, I'm encouraged by this, and I'm also encouraged of how this drug is formulated versus how safe the vaccine in and of itself is formulated.

JARED BLIKRE: Well, you mentioned the Delta variant there, and we have some other variants that have been circulating. I haven't heard much news about that. And it looks like new cases of the Delta variant have-- at least are ebbing worldwide. But I'm wondering if there's anything else on your radar. Are there anything any new variants that are perking up or any trouble spots around the world that you're specifically concentrating on?

ADAM BROWN: That's a great question. And actually, the answer is pretty encouraging. We've been looking at variants around the world to see if those crop up and then could potentially, through survivor of the fittest, become the more dominant variant, which is exactly what happened with Delta. But so far, a few of the variants that we were on the lookout for just have not come through and haven't materialized-- for example, the Mu variant.

So I'm encouraged thus far in seeing that our vaccination plans around the world are working at curbing some of these variants. Remember, variants occur when there's unmitigated spread. And as we get more people vaccinated, the chances for mutations reduce, and therefore, the chances for variants reduce. And so we've been looking at some different variants that have been on my radar screen. But as I've been looking at them, I'm also seeing that those cases are not becoming predominant in the United States and, in some cases, have gone away completely.

JARED BLIKRE: Well, yeah, I want to shift gears for a second and go back to something Anjalee was talking about, that your vaccination status in the US now cannot be considered HIPAA violation if it's disclosed or if an employer requires it to be disclosed. I just want to get your take on this as somebody who's embedded in the medical field. Is this something that you agree with? Is it a step in the right direction, or is it overreach?

ADAM BROWN: Oh no, this is not a surprise. We have been asking about vaccination status, whether you're a hospital provider, whether you're a health care worker, in other settings, whether you're a child going to school, or whether you are going to another country and have to have vaccines. So this is not a surprise for someone to ask for health care information and you give it to them. So this was not a surprise for me to hear HHS come out say very strongly that, no, this is not a violation of HIPAA. Remember, the HIPAA law was put into place to not only protect patient privacy, but it would also courtability of insurance. And so the law did not prevent other people, however, asking you about your status on whatever health care or issue that you may or may not have.

JARED BLIKRE: Thanks for clearing that up. As we head into fall here, flu season, I got to ask what are the odds of another wave? Would this be the fourth wave? I'm not even sure. I might have lost count there. What are the odds of another wave spreading around either the US or the world this fall and winter?

ADAM BROWN: So Jared, I've learned something over the past few months, and that is you do not predict COVID too much too far out. However, saying that, what I do know is that there's a lot more people here in the United States that were vaccinated versus, say, last year when there was virtually no one vaccinated until December. And so I do think that there's a chance here that we are going to see this Delta wave peak, and we already have seen it peak, and then start to decline around the country. But we have to watch something, though. There's still a lot of people who are not vaccinated. And when we see those who are not vaccinated still getting sick, especially in pockets, that's an area of concern for us.

One other thing that we need to be concerned about, though, too, is as we move from outside and outside activities to indoor activities in Colder months, we know the virus, especially this Delta variant, really thrives in that environment. So we are not anywhere out of the woods yet, But some of the signals are encouraging, and so I don't want to take that away from us. So we are going to have to continue to watch masking, getting vaccinated, socially distancing, those old, true public health type of remedies or things we're going to have to continue to do until we can get beyond this pandemic.

JARED BLIKRE: And we thank you for all your thoughts on that and look forward to having you on again here. Dr. Adam Brown, Emergency physician and COVID-19 National Task Force chair at Envision Health Care.