Former FDA Chief Says COVID-19 Variant May Cause Surge In States With Low Vaccination

by Joseph K. Clark

Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, warned Sunday that an infectious coronavirus variant could lead to a new surge in COVID-19 infections in the fall, particularly in states with low vaccination rates.

Gottlieb made the comments on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” saying that while the White House should be celebrated for delivering more than 317 million doses of vaccine during President Joe Biden’s first months in office, the nation needed a new strategy to jab those who were still reluctant to get vaccinated. The former FDA commissioner added that data shows the growing threat of the Delta variant of the virus — up to 60% more contagious than earlier strains — could lead to a new wave of infections in places like Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Missouri.

“It doesn’t necessarily appear more pathogenic, meaning more dangerous, but it’s infecting people more easily, and it’s starting to become very prevalent in the U.K. in unvaccinated communities,” the doctor said. “When we look across the United States, we see a wide variance in vaccination rates. Some states, like Vermont or Connecticut, have high vaccination rates above 80%. Other states are struggling to get to 50%.”


The Delta variant of COVID-19 “doesn’t necessarily appear more dangerous, but it is infecting people more easily,” former FDA commissioner @ScottGottliebMD says. The variant appears to spread more widely among children in the U.K.

— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) June 20, 2021

He continued: “So Connecticut, for example, where I am, shows no upsurge of infection, but Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Missouri show very substantial upsurges of infections. That’s based entirely on how much population-wide immunity you have based on vaccination.” The warnings echo current Biden administration officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who urged Americans to get vaccinations earlier this month.

While the Delta variant is spreading rapidly, a recent study found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 88% effective against the strain two weeks after the second dose. Gottlieb said proof of vaccine efficacy underscored the need for the Biden administration to rethink its vaccination campaign.

“We need to think about a different vaccine delivery strategy to get the people who are still reluctant or who still face challenges getting into those access sites,” Gottlieb said. “I think the vaccine administration will decline over the summer as prevalence declines. People aren’t be seeking a vaccine in July and August. But as people contemplate returning to school and work in the fall, they will seek out vaccines.”

Gottlieb also said Sunday that the Biden administration’s recent announcement to spend $3.2 billion investing in various antiviral drug trials to combat COVID-19 and other dangerous viruses could be a “real game-changer.”

“I think we will get a drug that inhibits viral replication that could be taken on an outpatient basis and is basically like a Tamiflu for coronavirus that you could take when you first have symptoms when you first have a diagnosis to prevent the progression to disease,” Gottlieb said.

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