Dr. Gottlieb: ‘Baseline Immunity’ May Protect From Severe Omicron Illness

Dr. Gottlieb: 'Baseline Immunity' May Protect From Severe Omicron Illness Dr. Gottlieb: 'Baseline Immunity' May Protect From Severe Omicron Illness Dr. Scott Gottlieb (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By Fran Beyer | Sunday, 19 December 2021 02:12 PM

Former FDA commissioner and Pfizer board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb on Sunday said there’s no evidence the omicron variant causes more severe illness that previous COVID-19 strains — and it may be due to “baseline immunity.”

In an interview on CBS News’ "Face The Nation," Gottlieb said he believes many people either have been ill or are vaccinated.

“There's no indication that it causes more severe illness,” he said.

“A lot of people believe, including myself, that the reason why it's manifesting as a less severe illness is probably because we have baseline immunity in the population,” he said. “Probably around 80% of Americans and 90% of South Africans have some level of immunity, either from prior infection or through vaccination. So even though we're still getting infected because this is spreading through immune evasion, it's spreading by evading the immunity that we've acquired. We have some baseline immunity that protects us from getting very sick. And that's in fact what you're probably seeing in terms of these hospitalization statistics.”

Gottlieb also believes omicron will ”blow through fairly quickly.”

“I think people are really tired of living diminished lives from COVID generally, and you're seeing that in terms of what people are doing, they're re-engaging activity that we know are going to be conducive to the spread of this virus,” he said..

“Omicron really has thrown a curve ball here. I think that this is a temporary incident. I think is going to blow its way through the population, probably very quickly. When you look at what happened in South Africa and even what's happening in the UK right now, where it's moving very fast.

“But we do face a hard four to six weeks ahead of us, as is most of the population,” he warned. “I think it is prudent, especially for people who are going to be around vulnerable individuals to take added precautions heading into the holidays. Try to use testing, make sure you're boosted, take precautions within your settings in your social settings as well. Use the high-quality masks when you go out.”

Gottlieb also said current home COVID tests should be adequate for detecting omicron.

“Every indication is that the mass market tests that people are using should hold up with this new virus,” he said. “They should be able to detect it. So, I think most of the tests that individuals are using are going to be just fine. It might be some of the smaller market tests that aren't in wide use that might be more suspect, but things like the BinaxNOW, which have been evaluated very carefully, should be fine.”

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