COVID-19 vaccines provide ‘big backstop’ against fourth coronavirus surge, Gottlieb says

His comments came as federal health officials fear a fourth coronavirus surge

The former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week said that the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine could provide a "pretty big backstop" against a fourth coronavirus surge. Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s comments came just one day before the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an emotional update warned the country of "impending doom" amid a recent increase in coronavirus cases and related hospitalizations. 

"We've now vaccinated 92 million Americans. It's about 28% of the public. About 50 million have been fully vaccinated, that's 15%," Gottlieb said on CBS News’ "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "So, I think that's a pretty big backstop against a true fourth surge."

"I think the Biden administration can allocate to parts of the country that look hot right now," continued Gottlieb. "But if we could just get two or three more weeks of around 3 million vaccines a day, that's going to be a pretty big backstop."

During a White House press briefing on Monday, Walensky appeared to hold back tears as she expressed concerns the U.S. could soon bear witness to a fourth surge — even as the country is averaging some 2.7 million vaccinations per day. 


The U.S. in recent days surpassed 30 million cases of COVID-19, with the 7-day average of new cases around 60,000 — what Walenksy said represents about a 10% increase compared to the previous seven days. 

"Hospitalizations are up and deaths are slowly starting to rise with about 1,000 deaths per day," she said. 

"Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth and I have to hope and trust you will listen," Walensky continued. "I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope, but right now, I'm scared… please hold on a little while longer."

Walensky added that the "trajectory of the pandemic in the U.S. looks similar to other European states" such as Germany and France, where she said there is a "worrying spike in cases." 


"We can change the trajectory if we keep doing the right things. We don’t have the luxury of inaction, [we must] work now to prevent a fourth surge," she said. 

Her comments came the same day the federal health agency released a study that provides real-world evidence of what protections the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines provide. 

The vaccines, both created using mRNA technology, are "highly effective" in tamping down infections, including asymptomatic cases, according to the findings

The federal health agency examined results from a real-world vaccine rollout among nearly 4,000 at-risk essential workers, like healthcare staff and first responders, across six states from Dec. 14 to March 13, 2021.


Results indicated a 90% drop in infection risk after participants were fully vaccinated, i.e. two weeks after they received second jabs developed by Pfizer or Moderna. The findings also underscored a high level of protection after just a single dose; participants’ risk of infection was cut by 80% two weeks after their initial vaccination.

The findings were consistent with results from clinical trials conducted prior to the vaccines receiving emergency authorizations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the CDC said. 

Gottlieb during his appearance on "Face the Nation" added that combatting vaccine hesitancy is the best way to get even more Americans vaccinated and ultimately prevent a fourth surge. 

"We should be looking at every single interaction that patients have with the medical system and trying to offer a vaccination at those points of care through a provider that patients know," Gottlieb said. "That's ultimately how we're going to get some people who are more hesitant about being vaccinated to take up the vaccine."

Fox News' Kayla Rivas contributed to this report.