Transcript: Scott Gottlieb discusses coronavirus on "Face the Nation," June 7, 2020

Gottlieb: "No question" protests increase coronavirus spread
Gottlieb: "No question" protests increase cor... 05:20

The following is a transcript of an interview with former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb by CBS News' Margaret Brennan that aired Sunday, June 7, 2020, on "Face the Nation." 


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Dr. Scott Gottlieb. He joins us from Westport, Connecticut. Good morning to you. 

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Good morning. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Dr. Fauci said in an interview on Friday said that these protests are a perfect setup for the spread of the virus. So even though these protesters are young and wearing masks, you believe this will ignite more of an outbreak?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, look, we're certainly going to see transmission coming out of these gatherings. There's no question about that. The prevalence in the United States of infection right now is about one in two hundred people so you can estimate how many people probably have the infection in these gatherings. I think the- the- the idea of reducing the risk from these protests is a shared responsibility. There's steps that the protesters can take and you see many of them wearing masks in these protests and understanding the risks. There's also things authorities can do, I think, to reduce the risks in terms of how they de-escalate these situations. The best science we have on this question comes from a recent study that came out of Germany, where there are large gatherings in Germany in a small region there, and they looked at what the spread was coming out those gatherings. Now, mind you, these were festive gatherings, but there were large outdoor gatherings nonetheless. And the science showed that there was about a two and a half times increase in the rate of transmission as a result of bringing people together in large gatherings. So we have some scientific basis to understand that these- these kinds of settings do create risk.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And these protests are happening in places that are largely hotspots. Minneapolis. Washington, D.C. I know Houston, Texas, where George Floyd's body is going to be buried in this coming week also expects large crowds. What are you seeing in those places?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, look, the protesters understood the risks, many of them. I think that's evidenced by the fact that they wore masks and they made a judgment that, you know, they were worth the risk in terms of going out and protesting what are legitimate underlying grievances. I think you're right. These are occurring in hot spots. We're likely to see cases go up. I think trying to tease out what the contribution is from the protests versus the contribution just of the general reopening is going to be hard. But when you look at cities like New York City, where cases have come down dramatically, you have below one hundred hospitalizations a day right now. I think we're probably going to see an uptick. We're going to see an uptick in other major cities where there have been these protests. It's hard to judge just how much right now. And it's going to take a couple of weeks. We're probably going to have to get a few transmission cycles out to really judge what the impact was. I think what the protesters can do is try to take precautions. Wear masks. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

DR. GOTTLIEB: Distance where they can and try to avoid, you know, things like getting in contact with elderly people, people who are vulnerable after attending these protests.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know a number of mayors have told attendees to go get a COVID test. I want to ask you about where we are with vaccines. You know, Secretary Azar was on this program just about three weeks ago, and he told us the administration are going to unveil their four to six selections for a vaccine, the final candidates. New York Times reported this week that's going to be imminent. What is the delay here?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, I'm not sure there's a delay. There was reporting this week that looked like it came off administration officials that they've made a selection of at least five candidates. Those were two MRNA vaccines, RNA based vaccines, where you're delivering the genetic material from the virus to code for the production of the protein on the virus that you want people to develop antibodies against and then three vaccines that are using viral vectors to deliver that same protein. It's called a spike protein. It's what the virus uses to invade our cells. These are very novel platforms. I'm on the board of one company that's developing one of these platforms, an MRNA platform. That company is Pfizer. I think they also need to think about trying to include some older style vaccines in that mix. Sanofi has a vaccine that's based on a-  delivering the protein directly. That's an older approach, more tried and true. So in addition to the novelty, which is likely to deliver more immunogenicity, I think that's a judgment they're making. They should probably fall back on some older style technologies as well. That's, in fact, what the Chinese are doing. They're using very old style vaccines and they may beat us to the market because of that. So they may have vaccines that are less protective, but be able to get them to the population earlier. And they're probably making a judgment that partial protection earlier is better than full protection later.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you told us May 24th, the candidates were Oxford, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi. Are- what should be added to that? Any surprises?

DR. GOTTLIEB: Well, what wasn't added to that based on the reporting this week was Sanofi. So the five vaccines were the five you mentioned, with the exception of Sanofi. Sanofi has that protein-based vaccine that's based on the same platform that they use to develop their flu vaccine that frankly, I think, should be included. Now, I'm not aware of how far along they are, whether there has been any issues with their development plan that caused regulators to make judgments or public health officials to make judgments to not include that. And perhaps they will include that. Perhaps the reporting isn't complete. The other company that has a protein-based vaccine that appears to be far along in terms of going into Phase 1 studies is Novavax. And so that's another one that might merit some considerations. But I would reach back and include some older style approaches in addition to the novelty. The- the--

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.

DR. GOTTLIEB: --issue is, I think that the more novel approaches are going to be more immunogenic, probably.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Dr. Gottlieb, thank you very much for joining us. 

DR. GOTTLEIB: Thanks a lot. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.