Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has stated that the nearly two-year-long coronavirus pandemic could be over by the time the White House’s workplace vaccine mandates take effect in early January.
“These mandates that are going to be put in place by January 4 really are coming on the tail end of this pandemic,” he said during an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Friday.
“By January 4, this pandemic may well be over, at least as it relates to the United States after we get through this Delta wave of infection. And we’ll be in a more endemic phase of this virus,” he continued.
Vaccines Still Key
Gottlieb, a physician who worked at the FDA under former Presidents Donald Trump and George W. Bush and now serves on the board of coronavirus vaccine maker Pfizer, also noted that Pfizer’s new antiviral pill should not be considered a substitute for traditional coronavirus vaccinations. Antivirals, though, could come in handy when treating cases regarding high-risk individuals.
“When you have therapeutics that are this effective, that can be a backstop for people for whom vaccines don’t work, people who have breakthrough infections—there’s pills being studied in that setting,” he said.
“It really is a backstop against death and disease from this infection,” he added.
Europe Now Pandemic Epicenter
Gottlieb’s mostly positive statements come as Europe is facing a worrying resurgence in coronavirus cases. Dr. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, sounded the alarm that the continent is once again “at the epicenter of the pandemic.”
“Today, every single country in Europe and Central Asia is facing a real threat of COVID-19 resurgence or already fighting it. The current pace across the fifty-three countries is of grave concern,” he said during a media briefing on Thursday, adding that just last week, the region accounted for 59 percent of all cases and 48 percent of deaths worldwide.
At the current trajectory, Kluge warned that the region could see five hundred thousand coronavirus-related deaths by February.
“We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of COVID-19, to preventing them from happening in the first place,” he said.
Meanwhile, top German health officials acknowledged that the country was entering a dangerous fourth wave of the pandemic.
“The pandemic is anything but over,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said during a press conference, per Deutsche Welle. It is now primarily a “pandemic of the unvaccinated—and it is massive.”
Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, added that “if we do not act, this fourth wave will again bring a great deal of suffering. Many people will fall seriously ill and die, and the health services will be under extreme pressure again.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.