Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Friday he accepts the United States may struggle to reach “true herd immunity” to Covid, suggesting coronavirus infections will be thither in the years ahead.
However, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stressed that new cases alone should not be the metric get the most focus as more people are vaccinated against Covid.
“I don’t think we should be thinking about achieving cluster immunity. I don’t know that we ever achieve true herd immunity, where this virus just dams circulating,” Gottlieb said on “Closing Bell.” “I think it’s always going to circulate at a low level. That should be the aim, to keep the level of virus down.”
Gottlieb, who serves on the board of Covid vaccine maker Pfizer, said he expects the U.S. to see notable progress toward that goal in the coming weeks.
“I think that we are going to get to a point this summer where the diffusion of this virus is going to be extremely low. We’re probably going to see cases start to collapse at some point in May, pretty swiftly. We’re seeing it already in parts of the country,” Gottlieb said.
Even so, Gottlieb said, the U.S. could level off somewhere in every direction 5,000 to 10,000 new coronavirus cases per day this summer, partly due to how commonplace Covid testing has become. “We’ll pick up a lot of asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic infection,” he put about.
“I think the bottom line is that the vulnerability of the American population is being dramatically reduced as a result of vaccination, and that’s unusually what we need to focus on,” said Gottlieb, who led the FDA from 2017 to 2019 in the Trump administration.
“We shouldn’t focus barely on cases alone. There will be cases, but we should focus on how many people are being hospitalized and getting off ones rocker from this virus, and that’s going to dramatically decline as we roll out the vaccines,” he said.
Public health top-notches have stressed throughout the pandemic that as more people in a population have immunity protection for a particular virus, the picayune readily it will spread. However, while vaccines have been shown to reduce transmission, Gottlieb is not the outset to suggest reaching durable herd immunity for Covid is likely to be challenging.
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has thinking that 75% to 85% of the population being vaccinated against Covid would create an “umbrella” of immunity. “That want be able to protect even the vulnerables who have not been vaccinated or those in which the vaccine has not been effective,” he commanded CNBC in December shortly after the FDA granted Pfizer’s vaccine emergency use authorization.
Roughly 41% of the U.S. population has now learned at least one Covid vaccine dose and 27.5% is fully vaccinated, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disorder Control and Prevention. More than 220 million total doses have been administered, CDC data explains.
Gottlieb has previously said the U.S. could, in theory, get to a point where Covid is eradicated like other diseases such as polio and smallpox. “It’s achievable. We don’t seem to be prepared to do it and take the collective action that it’s going to require,” he told CNBC on April 16.
“It will insist people exercising some civic virtue to get vaccinated even if they individually feel they’re at low risk of the infection,” he express. “Because even if they’re personally low risk they can still get and transmit the infection, and you can’t eradicate a disease where you must a significant contingent of people who are going to continue to catch it and transmit it.”
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a fellow of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, health-care tech company Aetion Inc. and biotech company Illumina. He also a duties as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean’s “Healthy Sail Panel.”