Gottlieb: New coronavirus strain 'probably here in the United States'

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on Sunday that a new strain of COVID-19 believed to have originated in the U.K. is “probably here” in the U.S.

“Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan asked Gottlieb if he thought the measures that the federal government has taken to fight the new strain by requiring negative COVID-19 tests from all air passengers arriving from the U.K. would have an impact.

“Well, I think it's probably here in the United States, and it could be here in a reasonable number at this point,” Gottlieb responded.

Gottlieb said the U.S. needs a better way to sequence and track the strains of the coronavirus that are currently circulating.

"We don't sequence a lot of samples in this country, and a lot of that sequencing that does get done gets done in private labs and doesn't get aggregated into public databases. That needs to be fixed," Gottlieb said. "In the U.K., they're sequencing about 10 percent of all the samples. Here we're doing a fraction of 1 percent."

In response to the newly detected strain, many countries have limited or banned travel to and from the U.K. Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeWashington state officials warn providers offering VIP vaccine access Legislators go after governors to rein in COVID-19 powers Inslee rebukes hospital over vaccine appointments for donors MORE (D) last week put in place a 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers arriving to his state from the U.K., while many other lawmakers, including New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoDemocratic NY legislator: Sexual harassment allegations show 'clear pattern of Cuomo's abuse of power' Lawyer for former Cuomo aide blasts 'falsehoods' at briefing As Trump steps back in the spotlight, will Cuomo exit stage left? MORE (D), have called for stricter restrictions.

Brennan also asked Gottlieb for this thoughts on the rate at which vaccines have been distributed and administered. She noted that 9 million doses of the two approved vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have been distributed and a little more than a million people have received a vaccine.

"The pace is slower than what was stated. I think it's probably realistic to think that the pace is going to be a little bit slower, especially as we try to move through hard-to-vaccinate populations next month," said Gottlieb.

"I suspect there's more than a million who have been vaccinated. There's a lag in reporting. But the idea that we're going to get to 20 million vaccines, vaccinations, by the end of the year, that's probably unrealistic at this point."