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The following is a transcript of an interview with Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner and a member of the Pfizer board, that aired Sunday, June 19, 2022, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now 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 children were ever going to be able to get a vaccine. And now we know they're actually being shipped out. But this is a pretty unique rollout for these youngest of Americans. In fact, children under the age of three can't go to these mass vaccination sites that we've seen for older people. How complicated is rolling this out to the youngest Americans going to be?
DR. GOTTLIEB: Well more complicated than other age segments, I think it's going to be a little bit more of a slow rollout relative to what we've seen in past rollouts with the other age groups. There are going to be pharmacies that are vaccinating children. CVS is going to move it into their pharmacies, but they're only moving in to the pharmacies with advanced care providers with their minute clinics, you're probably not going to see clinic stood up maybe around children's hospitals, you'll see some clinics stood up, but most people are probably going to get vaccinated and their pediatricians offices. And it's going to take a little bit more time to get the vaccine into those local settings because it's more difficult to vaccinate a child who is very young, you need people who are specially trained to do that. And so you want- you want the settings to be appropriate.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The White House adviser Dr. Ashish Jha briefed this week and he said almost 50,000 children under the age of five have been hospitalized due to COVID infections, a quarter of them in the ICU. So really directly disputing the idea that kids don't get that sick. But then when we look at the orders here, 10 million doses made available by the government, just short of 4 million were actually ordered. That indicates perhaps a low level of uptake. Does that concern you?
DR. GOTTLIEB: Look, it's continued to concern me that we haven't seen a lot of uptake among children, generally, only about 30% of kids ages five to 11 had been vaccinated with two doses that's lower than what the initial estimates are right now. There are surveys showing 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 prevalence declines going into the summer, a lot of parents may choose to take a wait and see attitude and reconsider this in the fall. So I would suspect that you know, uptake is going to be pretty slow. I think the 4.98 or 3.98 million doses that have been ordered so far is a reflection of that fact. I think over time, we're going to see more kids get vaccinated. But this is a serious disease in children, more than one thousand kids have died about 440 under the age of four, we've seen as you said tens of thousands of hospitalizations in this age segment. And this isn't a benign illness in a lot of kids, healthy kids as well as kids with a lot of comorbid illness. And we're still seeing tens of thousands of hospitalizations every week in that pediatric age segment. And the final point I'll just say is that COVID is a much different disease in children who are immune naive versus children who have some prior immune exposure. So, if you can gain some prior immune exposure through vaccination, when a child is eventually going to confront this infection, and most people eventually over the course of their lifetime are gonna get this infection. It's a much different disease once you've had that prior immune exposure and have some baseline immunity against this- this infection.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, I hear you saying it's not that your kid won't get sick, if they get the shot, it's that they will not necessarily be hospitalized, right?
DR. GOTTLIEB: They'll have more baseline immunity, they'll have some T cell protection. They'll have memory B cells that can protect them in that setting.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Look, every part of this pandemic has become 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, who, whose state is actively dissuading children from being vaccinated, and there was this back and forth over not ordering vaccine supplies. What is this about? And he's claiming the trial data was abysmal and it should not have gotten FDA authorization. He's not a doctor, you're a doctor. Tell me. What's your view here?
DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, these vaccines have gone through robust clinical studies. We have a lot of experience with these vaccines now in children, children ages five to 11. This got a unanimous vote from a pretty diverse set of advisors at the FDA 21-0, and a unanimous vote from CDC. So, I think people should feel confident in the safety and effectiveness of both of these vaccines. Think there's really two questions on a table with respect to the state of Florida, are they right to actively discourage vaccination? And did they take steps to actively impede the ability of physicians in that state to get access to the vaccine? I think they're wrong to actively discourage vaccination. They could have taken a neutral stance and just merely said, we're not recommending the vaccine for children. Instead they affirmatively oppose the vaccine. I believe that their only jurisdiction to do that other countries that aren't recommending the vaccine haven't actively opposed vaccination. They haven't said that kids shouldn't get vaccinated. With respect to the second question about the access to the vaccine for providers. I don't think that they're actively impeding the ability of pediatricians in the state to get the vaccine. They're just not facilitating that and this is a position that they said they would take all along. They articulated this much earlier in the year. What's happening in every other state is the states really act as an intermediary, taking possession of the vaccine from the CDC, and then redistributing it to physicians within that state.
DR. GOTTLIEB: And so when other states did where they preordered vaccine. In the state of Florida, they're not playing that role. They told physicians, you're gonna have to direct order from the CDC. And because of that, no pre orders were placed. Physicians were only able to place orders once this was approved. So the state of Florida was the only state that wasn't able 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: Yeah.
DR. GOTTLIEB: --prioritize the orders that have come in from doctors in Florida, about 20,000 have come in as of yesterday, so they'll be getting vaccine this week.
MARGARET BRENNAN: To be clear, it's an emergency use authorization, private industry can't buy this directly. The government has to be involved, correct?
DR. GOTTLIEB: That's right. So in the state of Florida, physicians are going on to the website, the Florida State website and putting in orders, it's effectively through the state. I mean, the state's acting as a broker. Those orders have been going into CDC, but the state is not taking possession and what's happening--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hmm.
DR. GOTTLIEB: --in other states is that they are taking possession of the vaccine, then redistributing it, a lot of states have chosen to do that because they want to make sure there's equitable distribution. They want to get early supply. They want to be able--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hmm.
DR. GOTTLIEB: --to target to certain- certain parts of the state in Florida. They said we don't think people should be getting this vaccine and we're going to play no role in facilitating that access. So they're not blocking access. They're just not facilitating--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
DR. GOTTLIEB: --that access.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, no. Interesting perspective from you, Dr. Gottlieb. Always love having you on the program. We'll be back with a lot more Face to Nation. Stay with us.