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Covid Delta variant not immediate threat to US



Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Wednesday that he believes enough Americans are fully vaccinated to delay the risk of the Delta Covid variant.

“The question is: Are there enough unvaccinated people for this to enter the population and start spreading wider? I happen to think it is unlikely that this will be a threat until the autumn, perhaps,” the former Food and The Drug Administration said the commissioner on “Squawk Box.”

Gottlieb’s comments come as speculation grows that the UK may delay the repeal of all lockdown measures in the UK, which are set for June 21

, due to the increasing prevalence of the Delta variant, which was first discovered in India.

The most serious cases involving the Delta variant appear to be in unvaccinated people or those who have only been partially vaccinated, Gottlieb noted. “It seems to be a more dangerous variant. That said, two doses of the vaccine seem to be very protective.”

“People who are fully vaccinated, I think, are pretty well protected against this new variant based on the accumulated evidence,” added Gottlieb, who headed the FDA in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019. He is now on the board of vaccine manufacturer Pfizer.

On Tuesday, the head of the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the importance of Americans being fully vaccinated to protect against the Delta variant. Currently, Fauci said it accounts for more than 6% of the U.S. coronavirus infections that researchers have genetically sequenced.

The Delta variant, meanwhile, is becoming the dominant variant in the UK. The United States and the United Kingdom now have about 53% of adults fully vaccinated against Covid. Gottlieb said, however, that England’s decision to postpone the administration of the second dose to give more people initial shots “probably opened the door to this spreading a little wider.”

At a White House briefing on Tuesday, Fauci cited as examples Covid vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca – which are used in the UK but not the US – and said they were about 33% effective in protecting against the Delta variant after a dose. For Pfizer, it rose to 88% efficacy after the second dose, Fauci said, while AstraZeneca’s vaccine was 60% effective according to the National Institutes of Health.

“It seems that two doses of the vaccine are more important against these variants than they were against the old virus strain,” Gottlieb said.

Despite vaccination advances in the United States, Gottlieb acknowledged that there could be worrying situations in the country involving the Delta variant. “If you have a community where there are a lot of unvaccinated people and you have a super-spreading event with Delta … you can have an outbreak here.”

Covid cases in the United States continued to decline. The country’s seven-day average of daily new coronavirus infections is about 14,400, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. That’s about 17% lower than a week ago. It also represents a decrease of over 60% from approx. a month ago. The highest single day with new cases in the United States was 300,462 on January 2nd.

Publication: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic test start-up Tempus, healthcare technology company Aetion and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean’s “Healthy Sail Panel.”


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