Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday he plans to get his young kids vaccinated against Covid “as soon as they’re eligible.”
Pfizer said Friday its two-shot vaccine at smaller doses was 90.7% effective in a clinical trial at preventing symptomatic illness in kids 5-11. Food and Drug Administration scientists — ahead of Tuesday’s vaccine panel meeting to consider inoculations for that age group — said the benefits outweigh the risks.
“My kids are becoming eligible for vaccination and I’ll get them vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible. I have confidence in the vaccine,” said Gottlieb, former head of the FDA and current Pfizer board member, said in a “Squawk Box” interview. “I think it’s going to be liberating for their lives.”
In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the Pfizer vaccine for kids aged 12 to 15, and some school districts, including the nation’s second-largest Los Angeles, imposed vaccine mandates for young students.
However, Gottlieb said elementary schools are unlikely to see widespread mandates if the shots are indeed approved for the younger age kids. “I just don’t see mandates being a prominent feature in how this vaccine is distributed for a long time.”
There’s one difference in the expected approval and rollout of shots for kids 5-11 that may inspire a higher rate of vaccination compared to other age groups, according to Gottlieb.
“I think the fact that this is being distributed in pediatricians offices … is going to make a difference because you don’t want to bring a five to 11 year old necessarily to a mass vaccine distribution center or pharmacy. You want to bring them to the comfort of the pediatricians office,” he said.
Though data has shown that Covid is less deadly in children, Gottlieb said the numbers are still high.
“We’ve seen 690 deaths in children under the age of 18 and 115 kids ages five to 11” since the beginning of the pandemic, he said. “Just to put that into perspective, before we had a vaccine for chickenpox we would lose about 90 kids a year.”
The U.S. has the highest number of cumulative Covid deaths in the world, with the total since the beginning of the pandemic nearing 736,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
In the 24 states that report child hospitalizations, there have been 25,000, according to Gottlieb. “We still kids getting into trouble with this virus so I’m going to be vaccinating my kids as soon as it’s available for them.”
Currently, more than 57% of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to CDC data, as defined by two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and one-shot of the Johnson & Johnson‘s vaccine.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, health-care tech company Aetion Inc. and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean‘s “Healthy Sail Panel.”