Washington – Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb suggested Sunday that the Biden administration undertake more “tailor-made” efforts to ensure that coronavirus vaccines reach the arms of Americans in the United States. underserved communities.
“It would take federal resources and state resources and create more custom solutions that can be used in some of the hard-to-reach environments, some of the underserved communities, whether you can move mobile vans to those communities, try to work through from community groups, local providers, church groups, community health centers to try to vaccinate the most difficult to reach populations, “Gottlieb said in an interview with” Face the Nation. ” “It is a very difficult endeavor. It is expensive. It is a tailored endeavor.”
Gottlieb, who led the FDA for nearly two years under former President Donald Trump, said the new administration is “taking a comprehensive approach” to vaccine distribution, from supporting vaccination sites to shipping doses of vaccines directly to retail pharmacies. . But he cautioned against spending too much federal resources on mass vaccination sites, as Americans going there for their COVID-19 injections can likely be served by pharmacies at Walmart, Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens.
“I would direct federal resources toward that kind of mission, and let Walmart work with easy demand and Rite Aid,” he said of reaching underserved communities.
While the Biden administration has taken steps to accelerate the pace of vaccine administration, Gottlieb and other public health experts have emphasized that new coronavirus variants first identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil amplify the need for it to Americans get vaccinated as quickly as possible. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 1,000 reported cases of the UK strain, B.1.1.7, in 39 states, and more than a dozen reported cases of the South African variant, B.1.351 , in least five states.
The emergence of the new variants has prompted vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer and Moderna to begin developing new booster vaccines to address them. Gottlieb said drug makers should decide when to start switching to boosters in July and August.
“You don’t want to throw all your eggs in that basket, but you do want to create some supply that you will have on hand in the fall if you need those vaccines,” he said. “So I think that’s the point where you will make that decision. The time to start the manufacturing process and get the finished vaccine off the line is about two months. So if you start manufacturing in July, you will start rolling out. the line shot in time for fall. “
While drug manufacturers in the US are working on vaccines that protect against new strains of coronavirus, officials in the UK have decided to continue administering a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, although it has been shown which is not as effective at first. trials against the South African variant.
Gottlieb said he understands the decision to continue using the Oxford / AstraZeneca injection, as it is cheap, accessible and can be stored more easily. But he suggested there would be a “plan B” from another take to send to regions where the South African variant becomes the dominant strain.
“If you are introducing a vaccine in those markets that we know does not cover B.1.351, the South African variant, very well, if it does, you have the risk that you may select that variant in those markets,” he said. saying. “So you need a plan B on what vaccine you are going to implement in those regions if, in fact, B.1.351 is prevalent in those regions after you get vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine.”