More Americans are being vaccinated against Covid every day, but that’s not the only reason coronavirus cases continue to decline in the US, said Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Friday.
In an interview on Closing Bell, the former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said that additional factors contributing to a drop in infection rates are the warming weather and the fact that part of the unvaccinated population has already been infected with Covid .
Gottlieb’s comments came Friday when the country’s seven-day average of new daily coronavirus infections fell below 30,000 for the first time in nearly a year. At the end of March there were around 66,000.
The decline in cases coincided with an increase in the availability of vaccines. As of Friday, nearly 50% of the U.S. population had received at least one dose of Covid vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the end of March that number was a little less than 30%.
However, the percentage of Americans who have some immunity to coronavirus is higher than vaccination rates, Gottlieb said, estimating that at least a third of the population is infected. The US had around 33 million confirmed Covid cases in total, but Gottlieb has repeatedly said the official record is an undercount.
“We don’t have any data on this, but I suspect that the level of infection is likely higher in the unvaccinated population because many people are likely not getting the vaccine because they knew they were previously infected,” said Gottlieb.
People who have recovered from Covid have natural antibodies, but the CDC and other experts recommend that they get the vaccine too. In fact, people who have had the disease and received the Covid shot may develop stronger protection against variants of the virus.
People who have not yet been vaccinated may have been less concerned about the virus during the pandemic and therefore spent less time at home, Gottlieb added.
So if you assume that the percentage of previous infections in the unvaccinated population is more than one third, and it probably is, and you assume that we have currently given at least one dose to about half the population “We’re getting closer to a pretty high level of immunity,” said Gottlieb, who headed the FDA in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019. Today he is a board member of the vaccine manufacturer Pfizer.
And while states are lifting many pandemic-time restrictions such as: B. Restaurant capacity constraints, some people have not reverted to their pre-Covid behavior, which helps reduce cases.
“People are generally more cautious, although we are starting to take off masks and be on the move,” said Gottlieb. “People are more careful about their interactions, so some of it still has a downward impact on transmission.”
Gottlieb predicted the country’s case numbers will continue to decline in the coming weeks, while the pandemic is unlikely to be classified as “ended”. He added, “I think we will have a very calm summer in terms of the coronavirus spread and then have to deal with it again when we start into winter.”
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, healthcare technology company Aetion, and Illumina biotech. He is also co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.