In Tuesday’s interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner acknowledged that some individuals may think that antibodies generated from having the disease offer enough protection against future infection or illness and, as a result, forgo getting a Covid inoculation.
The reason to still receive a vaccine is “twofold,” contended Gottlieb, who serves on the board of vaccine maker Pfizer.
“One, we believe the vaccine provides a more durable and broader immunity, so it’s going to protect you better against the variants,” he said, alluding to the highly transmissible delta strain, which is causing concern for public health officials.
“Two, if you’ve been previously infected and even if you get a single dose of the vaccine — forget getting both doses of the vaccine, just a single dose of the vaccine — you get a very robust immune response,” Gottlieb said.
Pfizer’s vaccine requires two shots for full immunity protection, as does Moderna‘s. Johnson & Johnson makes a single-dose inoculation. Those are the only three vaccines approved for emergency use in the U.S.
“It’s sort of the best of both worlds if you’ve been previously infected and you get vaccinated,” said Gottlieb, who led the FDA from 2017 to 2019 in the Trump administration. “At least with one dose, you do develop a broad, very deep, very durable immunity based on the data that we’ve seen so far, so there’s still a lot of compelling reasons why you’d want to get vaccinated even if you’ve been previously infected.”
More than 157 million people in the U.S., or 47.4% of the population, have been fully vaccinated against Covid, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Around 182.4 million people, or nearly 55% of the population, have received at least one dose.
After an aggressive push this spring to deliver the Covid shots to Americans, the pace of uptake slowed. In response, state and local officials — and businesses, too — launched various promotional efforts to encourage vaccination.
The increasing presence of the delta variant, in both the U.S. and across the globe, adds urgency to calls for more people to get vaccinated. The variant, first discovered in India, has shown to make the vaccines slightly less effective, but still provide protection against severe disease, especially.
“We expect to see increased transmission in these communities unless we can vaccinate more people,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday, referring to those roughly 1,000 U.S. counties with low vaccination rates.
“Preliminary data over the last six months suggest 99.5% of deaths from Covid-19 in the states have occurred in unvaccinated people,” she added. “The suffering and loss we are now seeing is nearly entirely avoidable.”
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, health-care tech company Aetion Inc. and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ and Royal Caribbean’s “Healthy Sail Panel.”