Dr. Scott Gottlieb explained on Monday how he is trying to protect his three young daughters from the coronavirus while still allowing them to visit friends before their age groups can be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Gottlieb explained his approach to “Squawk Box” after co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin asked the former FDA chief for his thoughts on indoor play dates for children, whether their parents were fully vaccinated.
“I’m reintroducing activities with my children, but hopefully I’ll do it in a prudent way, while still keeping the social network somewhat defined. I pay attention to how many people they interact with and who they interact with,” said Gottlieb, who headed the Food and Drug Administration in the Trump Administration from 2017 to 2019. He is now on the board of directors at Pfizer, which makes one of the three Covid vaccines approved for emergency use in the US
“For example, many of their dates were with children in their class,” said Gottlieb. “Why? Because this is your social capsule. You are already exposed to that social capsule and so we try to keep the interactions within that defined capsule.”
None of the vaccines used in the US are yet approved for use in young children.
Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine and Moderna’s two-dose vaccine received limited approval for people 18 years of age and older. In contrast, the FDA allowed Pfizer’s two-shot vaccine to be given to people aged 16 and over.
All three drug manufacturers are testing the vaccine in children, although the clinical trials are at different stages and studying different age groups.
Pfizer on Wednesday said its vaccine was 100% effective in teenagers ages 12-15, and Gottlieb told CNBC that he hoped to get it from the FDA for an emergency by the fall, when school resumes could be released for this cohort of children.
Experts say vaccination of children is necessary for the US to achieve what is known as herd immunity. This is the point where enough people in a population have antibodies to fight the virus against vaccines or previous infections, greatly reducing its spread.
“Children are clearly less susceptible to the infection, but less susceptible does not mean that they are not susceptible, and we are seeing some children contract the coronavirus,” said Gottlieb.
Currently, some adults are wondering how to see the risk to their children as more and more adults are vaccinated and comfortable returning to activities they avoided earlier in the pandemic – such as traveling, eating around the house and friends and family.
“The vaccinated parents reduce the risk of the children suffering from the infection … because many of the infections we see in contact tracing are actually children who are infected by their parents, not children who are infected in school “, so Gottlieb said. “If you interact with families where the adults were vaccinated, the children are less likely to get the infection.”
Gottlieb stressed, however, that even vaccinated Americans should keep in mind that the pandemic, which has been going on for more than a year, is not over yet. For example, he said, a person who has received a Covid shot should still wear a mask around a person at risk who has not been vaccinated.
“People who are vaccinated may feel that they are far less likely to get seriously ill,” he said. “They are less likely to get the infection, and less likely to provide evidence. … But when you are around vulnerable people, chances are you are asymptotic and the virus and shedding the virus. Pass the virus on to that person at risk. “
– CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this report.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, health technology company Aetion Inc., and biotech company Illumina. He is also co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.