Dr. Scott Gottlieb: U.S. Covid vaccinations at 'tipping point' of helping turn the tide in pandemic

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The pace of Covid-19 spread and the rate of vaccinations over the next few weeks are crucial factors in whether the U.S. can avoid another surge of coronavirus infections, Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday.

“If we could just buy ourselves another couple of weeks and not really see a takeoff of infection anywhere in the country, I think we’ll be at the point where we’ll have enough vaccine in the population … that it’s going to be a pretty significant backstop — combined with the warming weather— against really a fourth wave” of infections, Gottlieb said, noting states are significantly widening vaccine eligibility.

“I think we’ll achieve that,” added the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, who now sits on Pfizer‘s board of directors. “It’s a little touch and go over the next two weeks because we are seeing some rises in some parts of the country, but it’s probably going to be regionalized. It’s probably just going to be certain states that see their cases go up.”

Roughly 28% of the U.S. population has received at least one Covid vaccine dose and 15.5% has been fully vaccinated, as of Sunday, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots for full immunity protection, while Johnson & Johnson‘s is a single dose. Those are the only three cleared for emergency use in the U.S.

“When Israel hit about 25% of their population vaccinated, that’s when they started to see the [case] declines that were ascribed to the vaccination. We’re right about at that tipping point,” Gottlieb said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

The seven-day moving average of new infections is increasing in 30 states and Washington, D.C., according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Gottlieb pointed to Michigan, as well as the tristate area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as regions where “we see problems.”

Overall, the country’s latest weekly average of daily new Covid cases is over 63,000, up 16% compared with the prior week, according to CNBC’s analysis. That remains well below the nation’s peak in early January of roughly 250,000.

For the seven-day period ended Friday, hospital admissions of Covid patients rose 4% from the prior week but were down more than 71% from early January, according to the CDC.

The U.S. averaged 970 Covid deaths per day over the past week, a decrease of 3% from the prior, CNBC’s analysis shows.

Last week, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a news briefing that America is “at the corner,” rather than turning the corner, in the fight against Covid.

CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed to this report.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, health-care tech company Aetion and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean’s “Healthy Sail Panel.

Correction: The country’s latest weekly average of daily new Covid cases is over 63,000, up 16% compared with the prior week, according to CNBC’s analysis. An earlier version mischaracterized the figures.

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