Dr. Scott Gottlieb emphasized the importance of getting as many people vaccinated as possible, and warned of a potentially dire spring and summer without protective immunity as new Covid variants appear across the globe.
“If we can’t get more protective immunity into the population, we could be facing a situation where we have, sort of, a perpetual infection heading into the spring and summer as these variants get a foothold here,” said the former FDA chief in the Trump administration in an interview on CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” on Thursday evening.
Researchers at Ohio State found a new Covid strain in the U.S. with mutations that scientists haven’t seen before. They also revealed that they found another strain that is identical to the highly transmissible one from the United Kingdom. The researchers say these mutations “are likely to make the virus more infectious.”
Gottlieb warned that the variants could transform what could have been a relatively quiet spring and summer, into “a summer where we have more infection because these variants are now circulating and they spread more easily, even in the warm months, when we really shouldn’t have had a lot of coronavirus spreading.”
Longstanding Harvard University professor Dr. David Edwards echoed Gottlieb’s sentiments on timing and the importance of an effective vaccine rollout.
“Time matters, of course, when confronting any organism,” said Edwards, the founder of FEND, a nasal hygiene mist developed for the coronavirus pandemic. “Our primary goal this winter should still be to vaccinate as many people as we can with the very effective vaccines we possess today.”
The U.S. has distributed 30.6 million vaccines and put 11 million of those into people’s arms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An ensemble forecast compiled by the CDC, however, projected that an additional 92,000 Americans will die from Covid in the next three weeks.
The United States has sustained a gut-wrenching 8,400 deaths over the past two days and nearly 40,000 in less than two weeks of 2021,according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data. The pandemic is, on average, killing more than 3,300 Americans a day.
Gottlieb told host Shepard Smith that he is “encouraged” by Johnson & Johnson‘s one-dose vaccine and “confident” in the company’s ability to scale its manufacturing to help bolster the Covid vaccine rollout across the U.S.
“The early data looked encouraging,” Gottlieb said. “One of the things that we saw in data was that the antibody response continued to build, even after about two-and-a-half months.”
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina. Pfizer has a manufacturing agreement with Gilead for remdesivir. Gottlieb also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean‘s “Healthy Sail Panel.”