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Dr. Scott Gottlieb: Getting Covid vaccine doesn't imply folks can merely return to life earlier than the pandemic

Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 cannot simply go back to their pre-pandemic way of life, said Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Wednesday.

"It won't be like 2017 and 2018, when we weren't worried about a respiratory pathogen at all," the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner said on Squawk Box. "We'll worry about it even if we're vaccinated."

However, he said, "I think we will hopefully worry a lot less than we do now."

The novel coronavirus appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 and spread around the world. It caused nearly 86.6 million infections and more than 1.87 million deaths in total, according to Johns Hopkins University on Wednesday morning. The United States has had more than 21 million of these cases worldwide and more than 357,000 deaths.

Gottlieb, who headed the FDA in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019, compared the possible changes to life in America after the coronavirus to flying on a plane after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. For example, he said he believed because of the pandemic that public venues could continue to conduct temperature surveys.

"I just think that things will be different, just as they are different if you pass an airport now after September 11th," said Gottlieb, who serves on the board of directors at Pfizer, which makes a Covid-19 vaccine. "I don't think masks will be mandatory next fall and winter when we can increase the vaccination rate and when these new varieties go away or don't prevail. But I think a lot of people will want to wear masks, and that's fine. "

Gottlieb cited a few reasons for his belief, including the reluctance of some people to get vaccinated against Covid-19, just as there is no universal vaccination against seasonal influenza. Additionally, he emphasized that the vaccines protect people from developing symptomatic Covid-19, and not necessarily from ever becoming infected with the coronavirus.

"It will take some time to fully answer this question as we will need real evidence, but the common wisdom … is that the vaccine is likely to prevent some people from becoming infected, and likely the likelihood of people decreases who become infected are infected [from transmission] of the virus, "said Gottlieb. "What we don't know is the magnitude of this effect."

Gottlieb's remarks followed a warning he issued Tuesday night about the new strain of coronavirus circulating in South Africa and told CNBC's Shepard Smith that it was "very worrying" as it may have mutated in ways that limit the effectiveness of antibodies could.

Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, the genetic testing startup Tempus, and the biotech company Illumina. He is also co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean.

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