Virus Fatigue Is Risk as U.S. Heads Into Fall, Ex-FDA Head Says

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“Pandemic fatigue” is an additional risk as the U.S. heads into the fall and winter, when infectious diseases traditionally spread more readily, former Food and Drug Administration head Scott Gottlieb said.

A coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to be available for widespread use this year, and more than 20% of the U.S. population could be infected with Covid-19 by year-end based on current spread rates, Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“People are exhausted,” he said. “People have been social distancing and wearing masks and staying home for a long period of time right now. Small businesses are hurting.”

Cold weather and people spending more time indoors can allow viruses to spread more easily in the months ahead, said Gottlieb, who served as FDA commissioner under President Donald Trump for almost two years until April 2019.

“People’s willingness to comply with the simple things that we know can reduce spread is going to start to fray,” he said. “And that’s another challenge — trying to keep up our vigilance at a time when we know that this can spread more aggressively.”

“We’re heading into a more difficult season,” he said.

Vaccine Makers Plan Public Stance to Counter Pressure on FDA

As drugmakers make plans to publicly urge ascience-based approach, Gottlieb said he doesn’t expect health officials and drug companies to give in to political pressure to approve a Covid-19 vaccine prematurely.

While a vaccine may become available this year on a limited scale for high-risk people, the likelihood that one will be deployed “in the way we traditionally think about a vaccine, in terms of trying to provide broad-based immunity in the population” is “extremely low,” he said.

A vaccine available in 2020 would be used in a targeted way, “almost in a therapeutic sense,” Gottlieb said.

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