Gottlieb, now a board member for U.S.-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer, said during an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that such a mandate for children between the ages of 5 and 11 is likely to be years away.
“I think that’s a very long way off,” Gottlieb said, when pressed on the issue by host Margaret Brennan. “The older kids—the high school kids, the middle school kids—do seem to get into trouble more with COVID. It’s harder to control in those settings, so that’s gonna be considered separately. But even that is, I think, a multi-year effort. I don’t think that it’s going to happen anytime soon.”
Gottlieb said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is likely to study the post-pandemic experience, how much virus is going to be circulating after the pandemic, how much of a risk it poses to children, and collect long-term data in children of that age group.
“So … 12 to 17 could be a couple of years away, perhaps a little longer. I think five to 11 is even longer than that. You’re going to want to get more experience in those children,” he said of a potential timeline for COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
He added that his estimation is “barring anything unexpected,” citing a potential new variant of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, if it were to be “hard to control” in children.
“If we get something that is causing more problems in kids, you could see an earlier decision,” Gottlieb said. “But given our current trajectory, where we are, that we are starting to get control of this virus, I think that CDC is going to act very cautiously.”
His remarks come days after Pfizer announced that it had submitted a request to U.S. drug regulators to expand the authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine to children aged between 5 and 11.
The company said on Oct. 7 that it had with its German partner BioNTech submitted a request to the FDA roughly a week after submitting data they said show that the vaccine triggered antibody responses in children in a phase 2/3 clinical trial. The full results for the trial, which was run by the companies, haven’t yet been released.
Pfizer said in a statement that its submission is an “important step” with new cases in children in the United States “continuing to be at a high level.”
Its vaccine has already been authorized for children aged 12 to 17 and approved for adults aged 18 and older, though the approved version isn’t yet available in the United States.
Pfizer officials said last month they expect to ask for an expansion of the authorization for children aged 5 to 11 in the coming weeks, followed soon after by a request for expansion to children between 6 months and 5 years of age.
Some scientific experts have questioned whether COVID-19 vaccines are appropriate to give to certain groups of people.
The inventor of mRNA vaccine technology, Dr. Robert Malone, has said that the risk-benefit ratio of the vaccine for children doesn’t “look so good.” Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are mRNA vaccines.
“Typically, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices [ACIP] of the CDC would be evaluating risk-benefit ratio for a new vaccine in a vigorous way, using quality-adjust life years,” Malone told EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” program in July.
“And then the ACIP would come out with a recommendation saying this vaccine is good to be used in the elderly. It’s pretty compelling in this case with these vaccines that even though there are adverse events, their risk of COVID death or significant disease is pretty high. So that’s an easy one to say yes to,” he said.
“Adolescents, in contrast, have a very, very low probability of disease or death from COVID. … That calculation doesn’t come out looking so good.”
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.