“This is going to be a pretty strong incentive for many people who would have hesitated to get vaccinated to go out and get the shot,” the former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner said on “Squawk Box.”
In most indoor and outdoor environments, fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a face mask or keep six feet social distance from other people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. The masks must still be worn in businesses that need them, the CDC said, as well as on planes and public transport.
Nonetheless, the relaxed stance of the public health agency is a major development in US efforts to fight the coronavirus. This comes from the fact that 36% of the American population has been fully vaccinated against Covid, according to CDC data. About 47% of Americans have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine.
The pace of new vaccinations has slowed in recent weeks, prompting government officials to look for ways to encourage more Americans to sign up for a Covid vaccine. This includes efforts to build confidence in the vaccine, expand availability in hard-to-reach communities, and create incentives. In Ohio, for example, Governor Mike DeWine unveiled a plan to give five of the state’s residents $ 1 million through a lottery; the recipient must be vaccinated to be eligible for the award.
According to Gottlieb, who led the FDA from 2017 to 2019 in the Trump administration, the CDC’s relaxed advice might be enough on its own to spur an increase in vaccinations. He now sits on the board of directors of vaccine maker Pfizer.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an increase in the number of people coming out for vaccinations because now being vaccinated offers more value. You can walk around with a mask in an honest way, ”he said.
Gottlieb acknowledged concerns shared by some public health experts who believe unvaccinated people will use the new CDC guidelines as a blanket to forgo a mask in businesses. However, he said, “I think the people who will do that would have done it anyway. “
In general, Gottlieb said the CDC’s mask decision was the right one now that the country has seen a sustained decline in new coronavirus infections and a significant portion of the population has been vaccinated, providing protection against serious illness. And the dead.
He specifically highlighted the high vaccination rates among older Americans, who have a high risk of dying from Covid. Almost 72% of the Americas aged 65 and over have been fully immunized.
“I think the worst thing you can say about the action taken by the CDC is, ‘Well, maybe they could have waited a week longer,’” Gottlieb said. “At some point we will have to get past the coronavirus and start living normally again,” he added. “We’re at this point right now. We are about to be able to remove the masks and resume normal activities. “
Dr Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, told CNBC on Thursday that the new mask guidelines are “really great news” for fully vaccinated people. However, Jha said he believes states should maintain their interior mask mandates for another month. This would allow people who received their first vaccine against Covid on April 19 – the day that all U.S. residents aged 18 and over became eligible – to be fully immunized, he said.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a contributor to CNBC and is a board member of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, health tech company Aetion, and biotech company Illumina. He is also co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.