Scott Gottlieb sees an extension of the eligibility sooner than anticipated

Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday he believes states in the US may upgrade coronavirus vaccine eligibility earlier than expected due to the overwhelming willingness to receive the shots.

“We live by the belief that the demand here is endless and not,” the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”. “I think by the end of February we will find that we have to open the eligibility pretty wide to get people to get vaccinated. We won’t be in this rationing situation. I think it will work.” to end earlier than we think “

Gottlieb sits on the board of directors at Pfizer, which has one of the two Covid-19 vaccines approved by the FDA for emergency use. The other was developed by Moderna. Because the doses available are limited, vaccine administration is phased. Health care workers and long-term care residents were given priority in the first wave, and some states have moved into other groups, such as older Americans and key employees that include police and fire departments.

A school bus driver gestures after receiving a dose of the moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a vaccination station on the South Bronx Educational Campus in Bronx New York on Jan. 10, 2021.

I have Betancur | AFP | Getty Images

The pace of vaccine adoption in the US has been heavily criticized after the FDA issued limited approvals in December. The Trump administration fell far short of its goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of the year. By Friday morning, about 6.7 million Americans had received their first shot of the two-dose vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 22.1 million cans were distributed.

One hurdle in vaccine distribution has been reluctance to get the shot among healthcare workers, particularly those working in nursing homes. Late last month, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said 60% of the state’s nursing home workers are choosing not to get vaccinated.

Gottlieb, who headed the FDA in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019, said the caution of getting the shot likely permeates the entire population, and he predicted it will persist even if the number of available vaccine doses increases.

“My belief here is that the demand is very low – there are people who really want it urgently – but it is not wide,” said Gottlieb. In Florida, for example, there have been reports of elderly residents waiting in line for hours to be vaccinated, including some waiting overnight, and other reports of residents of other states flocking to Florida to be shot because of they are open to anyone who is 65 years of age or older.

Seniors and first responders wait in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the Lakes Regional Library on December 30, 2020 in Fort Myers, Fla. 800 vaccine doses were available at the site.

Octavio Jones | Getty Images

Not everyone will take such extraordinary measures to get vaccinated, predicted Gottlieb. “I think as soon as we’re 60 [million]70 [million]80 million vaccinated Americans will find it a little more difficult to get people to come to a stadium or sign up for a vaccination, “he said.” We need to look for other delivery ways to make it easy for people to get these vaccinations. “

Pharmacy chains like Walgreens and CVS Health told CNBC last month that they are expected to offer vaccinations to the general public in the spring.

Gottlieb also reiterated his belief that the intensity of the current U.S. Covid-19 outbreak requires a greater sense of urgency in the distribution of vaccines. The 7-day average of daily deaths from coronavirus in the country is 3,239, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The discovery of new variants of the virus that are believed to be more transmissible increases the need to speed up vaccinations, according to Gottlieb. He also urged that states should not respond criminally to reports of vaccine distribution to people who do not belong to priority groups.

“The more rules, the more penalties are introduced, the fewer vaccines are given. I think that’s just the bottom line,” said Gottlieb. “If we want to make sure that there is absolutely no one who is supposed to jump over the line, we are going to have a system that is really creeping. I think we have to get over it and realize that any vaccine we can get against someone correct is.” Given the urgency and this new variation, this is in some ways a public health benefit. “

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, the genetic testing startup Tempus, and the biotech company Illumina. He is also co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.

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