Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has contended that the new and highly mutated Omicron variant appears to be a “milder strain” of coronavirus but dangers still remain.
“There’s a very clear, as I said, decoupling between cases and hospitalizations and does appear now based on a lot of experimental evidence that we’ve gotten just in the last two weeks, that this is a milder form of the coronavirus appears to be a more of an upper airway disease and a lower airway disease that’s good for most Americans,” Gottlieb, a physician who worked at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under former Presidents Donald Trump and George W. Bush and now serves on the board of COVID vaccine maker Pfizer, told CBS News on Sunday.
However, “the one group that may be a problem is very young kids, very young children, toddlers who have trouble with upper airway infections, and you’re in fact seeing more croup-like infections and bronchiolitis in New York City among children,” he warned.
The latest data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics show that COVID-19 cases among children have been rising quickly over the past month, now making up at times roughly twenty percent of all new weekly cases.
Pfizer Booster Eligibility to Children
Addressing this concerning issue, the FDA on Monday expanded Pfizer booster eligibility to children ages twelve to fifteen—just as school restarts for millions of students after winter break. The agency also shortened the time between the second Pfizer dose and the booster shot to five months, which is down from six months.
“The recent rise in COVID-19 cases is concerning to all and today’s decision by the FDA to further expand the Emergency Use Authorization of a booster dose of our vaccine is critical to help us ultimately defeat this pandemic,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla noted in a statement.
“We continue to believe that broad use of boosters is essential to preserving a high level of protection against this disease and reducing the rate of hospitalizations,” he added.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that Omicron appears to be milder, Gottlieb also sounded the alarm that people should refrain from relying only on cloth face masks for COVID-19 protection.
“This is an airborne illness,” he said. “We now understand that, and a cloth mask is not going to protect you from a virus that spreads through airborne transmission. It could protect better through droplet transmission, something like the flu, but not something like this coronavirus.”
Gottlieb suggested that individuals who want the maximum amount of protection should look to N95 and KN95 masks.
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.