Printout: Dr. Scott Gottlieb on “Face the Nation”, June 19, 2022

The following is a transcript of an interview with Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner and member of the Pfizer board, broadcast Sunday, June 19, 2022 on “Face the Nation.”


MARGARET BRENNAN: We now go to former FDA Commissioner and current Pfizer board member, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who joins us from Westport, Connecticut this morning. Happy Father’s Day to you, Doctor.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I’ve been asking you for years now when my kids would ever be able to get a vaccine. And now we know they’re actually being sent out. But this is a pretty unique rollout for these youngest Americans. In fact, children under the age of three cannot go to these mass vaccination sites, as we have seen for older people. How complicated will it be to roll this out to the youngest Americans?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well more complicated than other age segments, I think it will be a bit more of a slow rollout compared to what we have seen in previous rollouts with the other age groups. There will be pharmacies that vaccinate children. CVS will move it into their pharmacies, but they only move into the pharmacies with advanced providers with their minute clinics, you probably will not see clinic stand up, maybe around children’s hospitals, you will see some clinics rose up, but most people will likely be vaccinated and their pediatrician offices. And it’s going to take a little longer to get the vaccine into the local environment because it’s harder to vaccinate a child who’s very young, you need people who are specially trained to do that. And then you want the settings to be appropriate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The White House advises Dr. Ashish Jha briefed this week and he said nearly 50,000 children under the age of five have been hospitalized due to COVID infections, a quarter of them in the intensive care unit. So really directly dispute the idea that children do not get so sick. But when we then look at the orders here, 10 million doses were actually ordered made available by the government, just under 4 million. This may indicate a low recording level. Does it concern you?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Listen, it still worries me that we have not seen much admission among children, in general only about 30% of children aged five to 11 years had been vaccinated with two doses lower than what the original estimates are equal now . There are studies that show that about 20% of parents plan to vaccinate children under the age of five, I suspect it may end up being lower than that. I think as the prevalence drops over the summer, many parents may choose to wait and see the attitude and reconsider this for the fall. So I would assume you know the recording will be pretty slow. I think the 4.98 or 3.98 million doses that have been ordered so far are a reflection of that fact. I think in time we will see more children being vaccinated. But this is a serious disease in children, more than a thousand children have died around 440 under the age of four, we have seen tens of thousands of hospitalizations in this age segment, as you said. And this is not a benign disease in many children, healthy children as well as children with many comorbid diseases. And we still see tens of thousands of admissions every week in the pediatric age segment. And the last point I just want to say is that COVID is a very different disease in children who are immune naive, compared to children who have been exposed to immune systems in the past. So if you can achieve some previous immune exposure through vaccination when a child will eventually confront this infection and most people during their lifetime will get this infection. It is a very different disease once you have had the previous immune exposure and have some basic immunity to this infection.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So I hear you say that it’s not about your child not getting sick if they get shot, it’s that they do not necessarily get hospitalized, right?

DR. GOTTLIEB: They want more baseline immunity, they want some T cell protection. They want B memory cells that can protect them in that setting.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. See, all parts of this pandemic have been politicized in some way. And there was this back and forth between the White House and the state of Florida, the governor there, Ron DeSantis, whose state actively prevents children from being vaccinated, and there was this back and forth over not ordering vaccine supplies. What is it about? And he claims that the experimental data was creepy and that they should not have received FDA approval. He’s not a doctor, you’re a doctor. Tell me. What is your view here?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, these vaccines have undergone robust clinical trials. We have extensive experience with these vaccines now in children, children aged five to 11 years. This received a unanimous vote from a rather diverse set of advisers at FDA 21-0 and a unanimous vote from the CDC. So I think people need to feel confident about the safety and effectiveness of both of these vaccines. Do you think there really are two issues on the table regarding the state of Florida are the right ones to actively discourage vaccination? And did they take steps to actively prevent doctors from accessing the vaccine? I think it is wrong to actively discourage vaccination. They could have taken a neutral stance and simply said that we do not recommend the vaccine to children. Instead, they are affirmative against the vaccine. I believe that their only jurisdiction to do so is that other countries that do not recommend the vaccine have not actively opposed vaccination. They have not said that children should not be vaccinated. With regard to the second issue of access to the vaccine for providers. I do not think they are actively preventing pediatricians from getting the vaccine. They just do not facilitate it and it is an attitude that they said they would take all the time. They formulated this much earlier in the year. What happens in all other states is that the states really act as an intermediary who takes the vaccine in possession of the CDC and then redistributes it to doctors in that state.

DR. GOTTLIEB: And then when other states did, where they pre-ordered vaccine. In the state of Florida, they do not play that role. They told doctors you will have to give orders from the CDC. And therefore no pre-orders were placed. Doctors could only place orders once this was approved. So the state of Florida was the only state that was unable to get pre-orders in, and the first shipments that went out were those pre-orders. Now the White House has taken steps to …

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

DR. GOTTLIEB: – prioritize the orders that have come in from doctors in Florida, about 20,000 have come in from yesterday so they get vaccinated this week.

MARGARET BRENNAN: To be clear, it’s an emergency use permit, the private industry can not buy this directly. The government needs to be involved, right?

DR. GOTTLIEB: That’s right. So in the state of Florida, doctors go on to the site, the Florida State site and place orders, it’s actually through the state. I mean, the state acts as a mediator. These orders have gone into the CDC, but the state does not take possession and what happens–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hmm.

DR. GOTTLIEB: –In other states it is that they take possession of the vaccine and then redistribute it, many states have chosen to do so because they want to ensure that there is a fair distribution. They want early delivery. They want to be able to–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hmm.

DR. GOTTLIEB: – To target certain parts of the state of Florida. They said we do not think people should get this vaccine and we will not play any role in facilitating that access. So they do not block access. They just do not lighten–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

DR. GOTTLIEB: –the access.

MARGARET BRENNAN: No, no. Interesting perspective from you, Dr. Gottlieb. Always love to have you on the program. We return with much more Face to Nation. Stay with us.

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