Dr. Gottlieb: COVID Booster Vaccines Could Be Needed This Fall

Dr. Gottlieb: COVID Booster Vaccines Could Be Needed This Fall scott gottlieb speaks while sitting onstage Then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb speaks about teen vaping during a discussion about overcoming obstacles, at the Newseum on March 6, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Monday, 07 June 2021 02:16 PM

Fully vaccinated Americans should feel safe this summer against COVID-19, but come fall, they may need to get a booster shot, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday.

"The combination of the protective immunity that people have through vaccination — even if it’s declining over time — combined with the fact that prevalence is very low, I think people could feel reasonably assured through the summer," Gottlieb, a CNBC contributor who also serves on the board of vaccine maker Pfizer, said on "Squawk Box."

Most experts agree that it's not quite clear yet when people will need to get a booster shot, but Gottlieb, who was FDA commissioner under former President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2019, said more will likely be known as the fall months arrive.

"I think as we get into the fall, we’re going to have to look at giving, especially the vulnerable population, boosters," Gottlieb said, adding that more discussions will likely come after July 4.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of having at least 70% of the U.S. adult population at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19. At this point, about 63.5% of the population has gotten at least one dose of the vaccine and about 53% of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the pace of vaccinations has slowed in recent weeks, and Gottlieb said he expects the numbers to remain low through July and August but perk back up again as fall nears and Americans prepare to return to their offices or children get ready to resume full-time, in-person classes at their schools.

Most of the people who haven't been vaccinated yet are the more "marginal customers," including younger people and others who don't feel they have as much risk of becoming sick, said Gottlieb.

"If you haven't gotten vaccinated at this point, there's not going to be a motivation to get vaccinated in the middle of August when things look good," he said. "Hopefully, the CDC will have a kind of guidance that will allow the coronavirus vaccine to be administered with the flu vaccine."

Gottlieb also commented on the ongoing controversy over the coronavirus' origins and whether the disease was engineered through gain of function research.

"I think we made a persistent mistake here, looking at the sequence in trying to derive all of our conclusions," said Gottlieb. "Early on, they looked at the sequence and it looked suspicious. They thought this could have come out of a lab."

But when scientists looked more closely at the disease sequence, they "reassured themselves" that it did not look suspicious, and that meant it didn't come from a lab, he said.

"The single biggest piece of evidence, which is the behavior of the Chinse government and what they withheld, is the exact evidence you would need to either implicate the lab, or it could be exculpatory for the lab," he added.

But now, 18 months later, the sequence isn't the only thing under consideration, said Gottlieb.

"That's the trouble, when you look at the national security mosaic, you look at other evidence that comes into play, including the behavior of the host government," he said.