Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday he was not yet concerned about the number of Americans who missed their planned second dose of Covid vaccine.
“We’re not sure if these people will come back anytime. They just didn’t come back on time,” said the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner in an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box.
However, Gottlieb said receiving the second Covid shot is necessary to receive the full protective benefits of the vaccines for months to come. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots. (Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine, the third emergency approved in the US, only takes a single dose.)
“My advice to anyone would be that we don’t know the shelf life of this response, even if you are young and there is evidence that you are already starting to derive a robust immune response with that first dose,” said Gottlieb, who sits at Pfizer’s Tafel. “If you really want the vaccine to work over the long term, you really should get the second dose.”
On Friday, the White House chief medical officer, Dr. Anthony Fauci that approximately 8% of US citizens who received the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines did not come back for the second shot.
“The number of people who have not yet returned to the second dose is low compared to historical standards or historical norms,” said Gottlieb, who headed the FDA in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019. For example, he said, the response rate for the Covid vaccine is better than for the two-dose shingles vaccine.
Gottlieb admitted that it is possible that a higher percentage of US vaccine recipients could skip the second shot if more young people get the shot. This is partly because “younger people know they can derive a more robust immune response from just the first dose than older people, who really need that second dose to get full immune protection,” he repeated.
People who haven’t yet returned for the second shot aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong on purpose, Gottlieb added. He praised the pharmacies that deliver vaccines for “trying to implement reminders for these patients.”
“Often it is only lost for tracking. It is not people who purposely do not come back,” said Gottlieb. “There are some situations I’ve spoken to people who are worried about the second dose, the side effects supposedly associated with the second dose compared to the first dose. But right now the percentage of people who came back are because this second shot is pretty high. “
Nearly 105 million people in the United States, nearly a third of the population, have been fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to CDC data, about 147 million, or about 44% of the US population, received at least one dose.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, genetic testing startup Tempus, health technology company Aetion Inc., and biotech company Illumina. He is also co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.