An increase in vaccinations in the coming weeks alone may not be enough to contain the spread of a coronavirus variant, which was first reported in the UK in December and has now emerged in the US, said Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner for food and drug delivery.
The emergence of variants could complicate efforts to reopen the economy in the United States, which, according to Johns Hopkins University, had at least 475,000 virus deaths more than any other country.
The UK first reported the strain known as B117 to the World Health Organization in December, and now there are 971 cases in 37 US states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Right now they are shipping 11 million cans a week in states. That is likely to increase," said Gottlieb, who served as FDA chief under former President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2019, in CNBC's "The News with Shepard Smith". on Thursday. "So we're increasing the vaccination rate across the country. Well, whether it'll be fast enough to get a backstop against B117 – probably not by itself."
Gottlieb said he doesn't think travel restrictions could stop the spread of the B117 variant because it can often be too late. A "seasonal setback" in the form of the arrival of spring and summer could help reduce the spread of B117, said Gottlieb, a director of Pfizer, whose Covid vaccine is sold in the United States.
He said that hopefully a combination of this and increasing vaccinations will include the variant in most parts of the country, although there may be hotspots in southern parts of California and Florida.