However, the former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration stressed that the new cases alone should not be the gauge that has the greatest focus as more and more people are being vaccinated against Covid.
“I don’t think we should think about achieving herd immunity. I don’t know if we ever achieve real herd immunity, where this virus just stops circulating,” Gottlieb said at “Closing the bell.” “I think it will always circulate at a low level. That should be the goal, to keep the virus level lower.”
Gottlieb, who is a board member of the Covid vaccine manufacturer Pfizer, said he expects the US to make significant progress towards that goal in the coming weeks.
“I think we’re going to get to a point this summer where the circulation of this virus is going to be extremely low. We’ll probably see cases starting to collapse at some point in May, pretty quickly. Seeing it already in parts of the country,” Gottlieb said.
Despite that, Gottlieb said, the U.S. could level out about 5,000 to 10,000 new cases of coronavirus a day this summer, in part because routine Covid testing has become commonplace. “We’re going to pick up a lot of asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic infections,” he said.
“I think the bottom line is that the vulnerability of the U.S. population is dramatically declining as a result of vaccination and we really need to focus on that,” said Gottlieb, who led the FDA from 2017 to 2019 in the Trump administration.
“We shouldn’t just focus on cases. There will be cases, but we should focus on how many people are hospitalized and sick with this virus, and that will deteriorate dramatically as we introduce vaccines,” he said. .
Public health experts throughout the pandemic have pointed out that the more people in the population have protection against immunity to a particular virus, the less easily it will spread. However, while vaccines are it has been shown to reduce transmission, It’s Gottlieb not the first to propose achieving lasting immunity for the herd for Covid is likely to be a challenge.
White House Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anthony Fauci estimated that 75% to 85% of the population vaccinated against Covid create an “umbrella” of immunity. “It could protect even vulnerable people who have not been vaccinated or those in whom the vaccine is not effective,” he told CNBC in December shortly after the FDA approved Pfizer’s approval for emergency vaccine use.
Approximately 41% of the U.S. population has now received at least one dose of Covid vaccine, and 27.5% have been fully vaccinated, according to the latest figures from disease control and prevention centers. More than 220 million doses have been administered, CDC data show.
Gottlieb said earlier that the United States could, in theory, get to the point where Covid is eradicated like other diseases such as polio and smallpox. “It’s possible. We don’t seem ready to do that and take the collective action that will be needed,” he told CNBC on April 16.
“People who practice some civic virtue will need to be vaccinated even if they individually feel they have a low risk of infection,” he said. “Because even if they are personally low risk, they can still get and transmit the infection, and you can’t eradicate the disease where you have a significant contingent of people who will continue to catch and transmit it.”
Data Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and a board member of Pfizer, the initiator of genetic testing Tempus, health company Aetion Inc. and biotechnology company Illumina. He is also co-chair of the Norwegian Cruise Company and Royal Caribbean’s ‘Healthy Sail Panel’.