Washington – Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration during the Trump administration, predicted Sunday that declining rates of COVID-19 infection are likely to “continue” as more Americans receive their vaccines and the number of people who have already contracted.
“This has had a tragic effect on America, but we should be optimistic, in my opinion,” Gottlieb said in an interview with “Face the Nation.” “I think we are going to continue to see infection rates decline during the spring and summer. Right now, they are dropping dramatically. I think these trends are likely to continue.”
There have been more than 28 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the US and the death toll is approaching 500,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. But there has been a decline in new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, and hospitalizations continue to decline.
Gottlieb said that the new variants of the virus first identified in the UK, South Africa and Brazil create a new risk and could become more prevalent in the US, but not enough to reverse declines at this time.
“I think it is too little, too late in most of the country,” he said. “With the increase in vaccination rates and also the fact that we have infected about a third of the public, it is enough protective immunity that we are likely to see these trends continue.”
Meanwhile, vaccine manufacturers are developing boosters and working to redesign their vaccines to protect against the new strains.
The Biden administration has worked to accelerate the pace of vaccines and has boosted the supply of vaccines to states. More than 61.2 million doses of COVD-19 vaccines have been administered and nearly 75 million doses have been delivered as of Saturday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gottlieb said it will not be possible for the United States to achieve herd immunity without children being vaccinated, and he compared COVID-19 to measles and smallpox, which were essentially eradicated after successful vaccination efforts.
“COVID is going to continue to circulate at a low level,” he said. “Hopefully we will continue to vaccinate the vulnerable population, so we will protect them from hospitalizations or serious illnesses and from dying from this. But this will continue to spread.”
With the Trump and now Biden administrations pressing China to share more data on the origins of the coronavirus, Gottlieb said Beijing should make information about antibody testing available on people who worked in a lab in Wuhan, China, where the first cases of the coronavirus occurred. were detected, as well as the original strains to allow scientists to study how the coronavirus evolved over time. The World Health Organization is investigating the origins, but the White House has raised concerns about possible Chinese intervention in those efforts.
“The most likely scenario here is that this came from nature, that this was bouncing between people and animals over a period of time and it finally blew up,” he said. “I think the lab leak theory, the fact that this could have been an accident outside of that lab will never completely dissipate. And the WHO shouldn’t walk away from that so easily.”