Dr. Scott Gottlieb told The Washington City Times on Friday that he believes the United States may struggle to achieve “true herd immunity” against Covid, suggesting coronavirus infections will occur in the coming years.
However, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stressed that new cases alone should not be the measure of the most attention, as more people are being vaccinated against Covid.
“I don’t think we should think about achieving herd immunity. I don’t know if we’ll ever achieve true herd immunity where this virus just stops circulating,” Gottlieb said on “Closing Bell.” “I think it will always circulate at a low level. That should be the goal, to keep the virus level low.”
Gottlieb, who sits on the board of Covid vaccine maker Pfizer, said he expects the US to make significant progress toward that goal in the coming weeks.
“I think we will get to a point this summer where the circulation of this virus will be extremely low. We will probably see cases starting to collapse at some point in May, quite quickly. of the land, ”said Gottlieb.
Still, Gottlieb said, the US could flatten anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 new cases of coronavirus per day this summer, in part as a result of Covid testing becoming commonplace. “We will pick up a lot of asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic infections,” he said.
“I think the bottom line is that the vulnerability of the US population is drastically reduced as a result of vaccination, and that’s really what we need to focus on,” said Gottlieb, who led the FDA in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019. . .
“We shouldn’t just focus on cases. There will be cases, but we should focus on the number of people who are hospitalized and get sick with this virus, and that will drop dramatically as we roll out the vaccines,” said he. .
Public health experts stressed during the pandemic that the more people in a population have immunity to a given virus, the less easily it will spread. While vaccines have been shown to reduce transmission, Gottlieb is not the first to suggest that achieving sustainable herd immunity for Covid is likely to be a challenge.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, estimates that 75% to 85% of the population vaccinated against Covid would create an “umbrella” of immunity. “That could protect even the vulnerable substances that have not been vaccinated or that have been ineffective,” he told The Washington City Times in December, shortly after the FDA cleared Pfizer’s emergency vaccine.
According to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 41% of the U.S. population has now received at least one dose of Covid vaccine and 27.5% is fully vaccinated. In total, more than 220 million doses have been administered, according to data from the CDC.
Gottlieb has previously said that the US could theoretically get to a point where Covid is eradicated, along with other diseases such as polio and smallpox. “It’s possible. We don’t seem ready to do it and take the collective action that is needed,” he told The Washington City Times on April 16.
“It requires people to practice some civic virtue to get vaccinated, even if they individually feel they are at low risk of the infection,” he said. “Because even if they are personally at low risk, they can still get and transmit the infection, and you cannot eradicate a disease where you have a significant contingent of people who will continue to contract and transmit it.”
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a contributor to The Washington City Times and serves on the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, healthcare technology company Aetion Inc. and biotech company Illumina. He is also Co-Chairman of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ and Royal Caribbean’s Healthy Sail Panel.