Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday he sees promising signs that suggest Covid vaccines are effective in reducing person-to-person spread of the virus in addition to their well-documented ability to protect against severe disease.
In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner cautioned that while the early data appears positive, some uncertainty remains. “I think there’s a reduction in transmission. The question is: What’s the magnitude of that?” said Gottlieb, a member of Pfizer’s board of directors.
The company’s vaccine, developed alongside German drugmaker BioNTech, is one of three to receive emergency use authorization from the FDA. The other two are made by Moderna and, most recently, Johnson & Johnson, which received limited clearance from the U.S. regulator on Saturday.
Gottlieb said there’s reason to be optimistic that the vaccines do just that, even if “the definitive study” proving it has yet to emerge. “The accumulating evidence is very convincing that there’s a reduction in transmission,” said Gottlieb, who led the FDA in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019.
He pointed to two studies conducted in Israel, one of the world’s leading countries in vaccinating its population, that suggest the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine cut down on virus transmission. Gottlieb also said J&J found in its trial a 74% reduction in participants developing asymptomatic infection. That finding from J&J, Gottlieb said, “is a pretty good indication that there’s a reduction in transmission.”