Why the U.S. isn’t eradicating Covid like smallpox or polio

Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Friday that the US is unlikely to eradicate Covid as it would with other diseases like polio and smallpox unless Americans change their attitudes about vaccination significantly.

“It is possible. We do not seem ready to do this and take the collective action that is required,” said the former head of the Food and Drug Administration on Squawk Box.

“It will take people who practice a civic virtue to get vaccinated even if they feel they have a low risk of infection because even if they have a low personal risk they can receive and transmit the infection, and You cannot eradicate it, a disease that has a significant contingent of people who continue to catch and transmit it, “he said.

No cases of polio have occurred in the United States since 1979, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first vaccine against the disease, which can cause paralysis, was offered in the country in 1955.

According to the CDC, it has been more than 70 years since the last naturally occurring smallpox outbreak was recorded in the United States. After years of global public health campaigns that included mass vaccination, the World Health Organization’s governing body declared smallpox eradication in 1980.

According to the CDC, routine vaccinations are no longer required for smallpox. However, the agency continues to recommend that children of different ages receive four doses of polio vaccine.

“We are eliminating things where we have very high vaccination rates and where the vaccine is a one-time vaccine that will provide complete protection for a long time and for a lifetime,” said Gottlieb, who sits on Pfizer’s board of directors One of the three Covid vaccines approved for use in the United States in an emergency. Moderna makes the other two-shot vaccine. Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine has been suspended by the FDA due to rare but serious blood clotting problems.

“You see measles, smallpox, polio, we vaccinate children. It gives them a level of protection that lasts long-term or into adulthood, and so we can eradicate or largely eradicate these diseases in societies in which we live are high, “said Gottlieb. For Covid, this is unlikely to be the case in the United States, he said. In addition, a “sufficiently large” proportion of the adult population oppose the Covid vaccination and the shots are not yet available to young children, he said.

“If it becomes available to children, there is now a very healthy debate in this country about whether it is mandatory for children to go back to school and it appears that the answer will be ‘no’ in the vast majority of states will. “said Gottlieb. “That doesn’t create the conditions to eradicate this virus. It creates a setup in which we can bring this virus to a low level. But you will still have pockets of spread. If we want to eradicate it, we need it.” make different decisions as a society. “

However, many colleges and universities in the US require Covid vaccines for students returning for the fall semester.

Gottlieb’s remarks came Friday, the day after the comments were made public by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who said it was “likely” that people will need a third dose of Covid vaccine within a year of being fully vaccinated.

The remarks renewed the conversation about the duration of the threat from the coronavirus, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic 13 months ago.

In the US, around 24% of the population is fully vaccinated against Covid, according to the CDC. President Joe Biden has asked states to ensure that all adults are eligible to receive the shot within the next few days.

Even if millions more Americans get vaccinated, coronavirus cases in the United States will continue to rise. According to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the 7-day average of new infections a day was 70,484, up 7% over the past week. That is a long way from its all-time highs earlier this year, but it is in line with the levels seen during the summer surge.

Some people, including Bourla, have suggested that coronavirus vaccinations could become an annual event, similar to seasonal influenza. In the near future, Gottlieb said he expected this to be true.

“It is difficult to predict what things will be like in seven years, ten years from now with Covid and how much this infection will be socially reduced, but at least for the foreseeable future you could see that this would be an annual … vaccination,” he said .

More than 31 million coronavirus cases have been recorded in the United States since the pandemic began, and at least 565,293 people in the country have died from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins data. Both cumulative cases and deaths in the United States, the highest of any nation in the world, account for about 20% of the global total.

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