Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier stressed Tuesday the importance of making a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 widely available, saying "until all of us are safe, none of us are safe."
The coronavirus has shown "that it does not respect borders," spreading to both high and low-income countries, Frazier said Tuesday afternoon during an interview with CNBC's "Closing Bell." "In a way, you could actually say, until all of us are safe, none of us are safe."
Earlier Tuesday, Merck announced that it plans to work alongside nonprofit scientific research organization IAVI to develop a potential vaccine against the coronavirus.
Merck plans to approach its vaccine development "in a responsible" but "very aggressive fashion" as pressure mounts to find a vaccine to prevent Covid-19, Frazier told CNBC. He said he was not in a position to give a timeline on when a vaccine could be available, but said in general "clinical trials take a long time."
"If you're going to immunize a lot people, millions if not billions of people, you're going to have to make sure that you know exactly what that vaccine will do in people and you can ensure the safety of people," he said.
The potential vaccine from Merck is just one of several in development to fight the coronavirus, which has spread to more than 5.5 million people worldwide in less than five months, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
More than 100 vaccines were in development globally as of April 30, according to the World Health Organization. U.S. officials and scientists are hopeful a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 will be ready in the first half of 2021, about 12 to 18 months since Chinese scientists first identified the coronavirus and mapped its genetic sequence.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Frazier called 12- to 18-month targets "very aggressive," adding "it is not something I would put out there that I would want to hold Merck to."
He told CNBC that there is "strong confidence" among scientists that they can find a vaccine for the coronavirus. He said the company is going to spend "what it takes" to find something that works, adding it has the "financial capacity."