Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned that vaccinating Americans towards Covid is extra crucial than ever, particularly as the brand new South Africa variant appears to inhibit antibody medicine.
“The South Africa variant is very concerning right now because it does appear that it may obviate some of our medical countermeasures, particularly the antibody drugs,” stated the previous FDA chief within the Trump administration in an interview on CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” on Tuesday night. “Right now that strain does appear to be prevalent in South America and Brazil, the two parts of the world, right now, that are in their summer, but also experiencing a very dense epidemic, and that’s concerning.
The South African variant is also known as 501.V2, and in mid-December officials reported that 501.V2 had been largely replacing other strains of the coronavirus as early as November. South Africa has already sustained the more than 1.1 million COVID-19 cases and more than 30,000 deaths, the most on the African continent.
Gottlieb cited experimental evidence from Bloom Lab, and explained 501.V2 does appear to partially escape prior immunity. It means that some of the antibodies people produce when they get infected with Covid, as well as the antibody drugs, may not be quite as effective.
“The new variant has mutated part of the spike protein that our antibodies bind to, to strive to clear the virus itself, so that is regarding,” Gottlieb said. “Now, the vaccine can grow to be a backstop towards these variants actually getting extra of a foothold right here within the United States, however we want to quicken the tempo of vaccination.”
Operation Warp Speed’s director of supply production and distribution Ret. Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski told host Shepard Smith on Dec. 3 that everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by June. Projections are currently falling short, however. More than 17 million Covid doses have been distributed to states, but only 4.8 million Americans have received their first shot according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gottlieb suggested working through prioritized categories of people more quickly, expanding the number of vaccination sites, and stockpiling a smaller percentage of dosages in order to vaccinate more Americans.
“It actually is a race towards time attempting to get extra vaccine into folks’s arms earlier than these new variants grow to be extra prevalent right here within the United States,” said Gottlieb.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina. Pfizer has a manufacturing agreement with Gilead for remdesivir. Gottlieb also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean‘s “Healthy Sail Panel.”