Gottlieb: Vaccine Will Continue to Play Part in Battle Against Omicron Then-FDA Commissioner-designate Scott Gottlieb testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on April 5, 2017, at on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
By Fran Beyer | Wednesday, 01 December 2021 02:23 PM
Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said what scientists know so far about the omicron variant of COVID-19 shows it's fast moving and evading immunity — but asserted "we're not going to lose the vaccine" in the fight against it.
In an interview on SiriusXM’s "Doctor Radio Report," Gottlieb, who is on the board of Pfizer, which is the manufacturer of one of three current COVID vaccines, said it's possible "this has been circling for quite some time."
"If you have a virus that looks scary based on sequence, looks like it originated three or four weeks ago, and looks like there's already thousands of cases, those are three very concerning principles because it means it's a fast moving virus, it's spreading very quickly — so it's clearly evading immunity and causing infection," he said.
"The key detail that's going to get nailed down this week, or very soon is, when did this first make its entry into the human population," he said.
"I think there is a possibility this has been circling for quite some time. And if that is the case, then this becomes a little less worrisome than it is right now, because it means it's probably not spreading that quickly," he said.
According to Gottlieb, it’s still too early to tell if the variant causes more serious illness "because a lot of the infections that have been presenting are in younger people."
But he reiterated confidence that current vaccines, though less effective, will still work against the omicron variant — though three doses will likely be needed.
"I would say [there is] a reasonably high degree of confidence that the vaccine is going to be protective against this variant. There's probably going to be some decline in the efficacy of the vaccine relative to this variant, but we're certainly not going to lose the vaccine," he said.
"So maybe a vaccine that used to be 95% effective against the sort of native strain of delta, will be 80% effective against this new variant. It's hard to put a point estimate on it now," he added.
"You're still going to have an effective vaccine, but it's probably going to require a booster. So the three doses is probably going to be appreciably better than just two doses … we'll have data soon," he said.
Gottlieb also had some good news on the current delta wave that has moved around the country.
"We're closer to the end of the delta wave than the beginning. I think that after delta finishes its course through the U.S. and it's already coursed through a lot of parts of the U.S., we're probably going to be on the back end of this as we get into January, prevalence is going to decline and things will start to improve rapidly," he predicted.