Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday that unlike in 2020 he fully expects families and friends to gather around the holidays this year. He also suggested there are ways to do so that can minimize Covid risk.
“Nothing is going to stop us from getting together, and we’re going to be getting together for Thanksgiving and we’re going to be getting together for Christmas,” the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner said on “Squawk Box.” He’s now on the board of Covid vaccine maker Pfizer.
Gottlieb’s comments came one day after White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a CBS interview it was “just too soon to tell” whether large group gatherings for Christmas would be safe.
“We’ve just got to concentrate on continuing to get those numbers down and not try to jump ahead by weeks or months and say what we’re going to do at a particular time,” Fauci said on “Face the Nation,” referring to the fact U.S. coronavirus cases surged in recent months due to the highly transmissible delta variant.
“Let’s focus like a laser on continuing to get those cases down, and we can do it by people getting vaccinated and also, in the situation where boosters are appropriate, to get people boosted, because we know they can help greatly in diminishing infection and diminishing advanced disease,” Fauci added.
In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving in order to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread. A similar warning was issued then for December holidays.
Gottlieb said last year his family did not hold a Thanksgiving gathering due to the pandemic.
On Monday, however, he suggested this fall is different with Covid vaccinations for adults widely available. Gottlieb has also said Pfizer’s coronavirus shot could be authorized on an emergency use basis for kids 5 to 11 as early as Halloween.
Currently, the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is fully approved in the U.S. for people 16 and up and on emergency use authorization for adolescents 12 to 15. Last month, Pfizer boosters for older Americans, at-risk individuals, and front-line workers were cleared.
Also in the U.S., Moderna‘s two shot Covid vaccine is cleared on emergency use for adults 18 and up. Johnson & Johnson‘s one-shot vaccine is also on emergency use for adults. Next week, the FDA will meet to consider booster shots for Moderna and J&J recipients.
“I think what people need to do is judge what the prevalence is in their local community and what the risk is within their family setting,” said Gottlieb, who led the FDA from 2017 to 2019 in the Trump administration.
“If you have older individuals, young kids who aren’t vaccinated who could introduce infection into that setting, people should just be prudent,” he added. “Use [Covid] testing as a way to secure that kind of encounter. But there’s nothing that’s going to prevent us from being able to gather around the holidays this year.”
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, health-care tech company Aetion and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings‘ and Royal Caribbean‘s “Healthy Sail Panel.”