Washington – Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Sunday that an increase in coronavirus infections among young people is causing new outbreaks in some states, but he does not believe there is a “true” fourth wave of the pandemic.
“What we’re seeing are pockets of infection across the country, particularly in younger people who haven’t been vaccinated and also in school-age children,” Gottlieb said in an interview on “Face the Nation,” noting the increase in cases. . among school-age children in Michigan, Minnesota, and Massachusetts.
“You are seeing outbreaks in schools and infections in social cohorts that have not been exposed to the virus before, maybe they were doing a better job sheltering, now they are out and about to be exposed to the virus and they are getting infected,” he continued. “The infection is changing its contours in terms of who is being affected by it right now.”
With coronavirus cases on the rise in 27 states and the District of Columbia, public health officials are urging Americans to remain vigilant in following mitigation measures. But as the rate of vaccinations continues to accelerate – 4 million doses were given on Friday alone – and roughly 130 million Americans had already contracted COVID-19, Gottlieb said the level of immunity in the US should avoid a fourth wave of the pandemic.
As of Saturday, more than 104 million Americans have received at least one dose of their coronavirus vaccine, while 59.8 million Americans are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There are about 200 million Americans who already have some level of immunity,” he said. “I think there is enough immunity in the population that you don’t see a true fourth wave of infection.”
While more young people are becoming infected with COVID-19, Gottlieb said he doesn’t think schools should close their doors to in-person learning, but rather should be safer to combat the spread of the virus.
“I think we should stick to strict mitigation in schools, schools that wear masks, schools that can implement some kind of distancing, as one epidemiologist referred to this week, go to the ‘full Harry Potter’ and try to keep the students within defined social cohorts so that they don’t intermingle in large groups, “he said. “If you are taking those measures in schools, I think schools can be safer and I think the benefits of being in school outweigh the risks. But we must be aware of the fact that schools are a risk factor, children they are vulnerable to infection and schools can become focal points for community spread if we are not careful. “
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccines are licensed for adults 18 years of age and older, while Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for 16-year-olds. But Pfizer and Moderna have been testing their vaccines in children over the age of 12 and are beginning clinical trials of their injections in young children.
Pfizer announced last week in a study of 2,260 American volunteers between the ages of 12 and 15, its vaccine was found to be safe and demonstrated 100% efficacy. Gottlieb is a member of the board of directors of Pfizer.
Vaccinating children will be crucial for schools to reopen and help the US achieve herd immunity, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, said Friday that he believes there could be enough information to safely vaccinate children of any age at the end of the year.
Gottlieb said he believes the FDA could authorize Pfizer’s vaccine for emergency use for children between the ages of 12 and 15 in time to make it available before the start of the school year, but cautioned that it could be more time before it is approved. to children under 12 years of age. get your shots.
“I think we will be able to vaccinate 12 years or more before fall,” he said. “I think younger than that might take longer because you’ll want to try a lot of different doses to try to find the lowest possible dose that still provides a strong immune response in children.”
Despite public health officials warning Americans not to oppose the guidelines with rising coronavirus infections, families continue to travel for spring break and the Transportation Safety Administration has reported a increase in airport reviews.
Gottlieb encouraged health officials to issue guidance that the public will largely follow, but said it is important that they demand caution.
“You don’t want to be so out of tune with the aspirations and where the public is and what the public is ultimately going to get involved in that the guidance is just ignored. You have to deliver the guidance in the context of what the public is willing to do. to do, “he said.
Still, Gottlieb emphasized that the US remains in a “high prevalence environment” with new variants of coronavirus circulating.
“We don’t want to be in a position where we spread the epidemic because we were not cautious with the steps we were taking at the moment,” he said. “That being said, people feel there is less risk overall. As people get vaccinated, they feel like they are at less risk and they are, based on vaccination. And so they are willing to start participating in things. They put it off for a full year. So we need to recognize that and I think to issue the guide in a way that people can adjust to it against, you know, their aspirations, which is that they want to see family again. They want to start socializing. They want to start traveling a little. “