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Gottlieb’s comments came during a back and forth over how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated mask guidelines affect young children who are not yet eligible to receive the Covid vaccine. Children aged 12 to 15 became eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last week.
Despite being fully vaccinated, Gottlieb said he wore a mask this weekend when shopping with his young children. He said he no longer felt at risk of catching Covid, but had no problem wearing a mask at the moment when he was with them.
“What’s the downside to keeping it?” Gottlieb said. “I would probably keep a mask on my kids a little longer. Another week or two, ”added Gottlieb, who now sits on Pfizer’s board of directors.
On Thursday, the CDC said that in most indoor and outdoor environments, fully vaccinated people no longer need to cover their faces or maintain a six-foot social distance from others. Masks are still needed on planes and public transportation, according to a federal rule.
States and localities are also always able to set their own face covering policies. New Jersey, for example, intends to maintain its indoor mask requirement. In contrast, states such as North Carolina and Ohio have relaxed their mask rules for fully vaccinated people following CDC guidelines.
Large retailers such as Walmart, Costco, Target and Starbucks have also dropped face coverage requirements for fully vaccinated customers, except in places where local rules still require them.
The CDC defended its new recommendations despite some confusion and concern. Critics fear it will encourage unvaccinated people to skip masks.
“People who are going to mask themselves now were going to go maskless anyway after these warrants were lifted and would still choose not to get the vaccine,” said Gottlieb, who led the FDA in the 2017 Trump administration. to 2019.
Gottlieb reiterated his belief that the CDC’s updated guidelines would at least make some Americans hesitant to get vaccinated to get the Covid shot. “I don’t think it will be 10%, but I think we could capture another 2-5% of people,” he predicted.
As of Sunday, 47% of the U.S. population received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine while 37% are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
New coronavirus infections in the United States remain in decline, which is why Gottlieb believes the CDC mask guidelines are appropriate.
The seven-day average of new daily coronavirus cases is around 33,200, according to CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s a 19% drop from a week ago, continuing a sharp drop that has taken place since mid-April when the daily average of new cases was over 71,000.
“I think the prevalence is really collapsing across the country, and we’re going to be at a point where there is very little infection and the individual risk to a person is low if you’re dealing with someone who is otherwise immunocompetent.” , Gottlieb said.
At the same time, Gottlieb said that people who choose to wear a mask, even if it is not mandatory, should not be ridiculed. For example, a person who is vaccinated but has a pre-existing condition may still wear a mask in some high-risk indoor environments, he said.
“I think this should be encouraged. I think it should be supported. People are going to have to make individual choices about their risk, ”said Gottlieb.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the board of directors of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, health technology company Aetion, and biotechnology company Illumina. He is also co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings‘and Royal Caribbean« Healthy Sail Panel » de « Healthy Sail Panel ».