Story at a glance

  • Scott Gottlieb says a sizable portion of the U.S. can contract the virus by the end of 2020, noting states with high infection rates.
  • He also discussed how experts will evaluate a vaccine’s efficacy in virus transmission.

Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is predicting that approximately 30 percent of the U.S. population could contract a COVID-19 infection by the end of 2020.

Speaking to CNBC reporters, he explained that some states have already surpassed this figure.

“We’re going to probably have by the end of this year, 30% of the U.S. population infected,” Gottlieb commented. “You look at states like North Dakota and South Dakota, it’s probably 30%, 35%. Maybe as high as 50%.”


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Per data from the COVID-19 Tracking Project, the U.S. has roughly 13.4 million confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic. Public health officials have been increasingly concerned over a rising infection rate following cold weather and the holiday season.

At one point in November, the U.S. was posting 121,000 new cases a day, an estimate Gottlieb regards as conservative.

“We’re probably, at best, diagnosing 1 in 5 cases right now, maybe a little bit less than that, so this is at least half a million cases a day, probably more in terms of actual numbers of infection,” Gottlieb reportedly said on Nov. 6.

Promising vaccine news and multiple candidates applying for the FDA’s emergency use authorization (EUA) have boosted the public’s hope that the pandemic will soon come to an end. Gottlieb, who sits on the board of Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company that applied for EUA earlier in November, said that with higher levels of both infection and vaccination, COVID-19 won’t transmit as rapidly.

“You combine a lot of infection around the country with vaccinating 20% of the population [and] you’re getting to levels where this virus is not going to circulate as readily, once you get to those levels of prior immunity,” he said.

But the efficacy of a vaccine will broadly be proven with post market data. Gottlieb points out that the vaccine’s ability to prevent virus shedding from sites like the nose or lungs following vaccination will be determined by observing individuals who have been vaccinated to see how the infection spreads.


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Published on Dec 01, 2020