How can we better prepare for the next pandemic? It's a question many have asked as we saw how unprepared our systems were to handle the coronavirus pandemic. NBC Connecticut's Dan Corcoran sat down with Dr. Scott Gottlieb to discuss that question and several others.
Gottlieb served as the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from 2017 to 2019. He's a medical doctor and sits on the board of Pfizer. Two weeks ago he released a book on the pandemic. On top of all that, he's a Connecticut resident, so he has an understanding of what's going on where we live.
This interview covered a range of topics. Responses below have been edited for clarity and length. To see more from this interview, click here.
"Well, we should have been prepared for this pandemic better than we were, I think that we've now identified a lot of our weaknesses, a lot of the vulnerabilities that we had to shortcomings in our preparedness, I try to walk through a lot of those in the book, I don't know that we're any better prepared for the next pandemic, and there will be a next pandemic," Gottlieb said.
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"We're going to end up having another pandemic and may well be influenza, and we're gonna need to be better prepared than we were this time."
We asked Gottlieb if we'll ever really eliminate Covid-19 from our lives, and what he thought the darkest moments in the past couple years are in his mind. He said he doesn't think this virus will ever be eliminated.
"I think this is going to become another strain of coronavirus that circulates regularly, it will become a seasonal, more of a seasonal virus. It will, you know be most prevalent in the wintertime and it could become a second circulating flu where you know, it causes a level of death and disease that's on par with flu," he said.
"I don't think we're ever going to fully move on from this," he added. "This changed the course of history. You know, this changed our society, this changed the geopolitical composition of the world. There's things that happened globally, that would not have happened if Covid didn't occur. I don't think we should move on from it. I think that we need to recognize our vulnerabilities and do certain things differently. I think we need to look at public health preparedness as a national security issue. I think what we need to move on from and try to heal from is the divisions that were created the fights over certain things we had to do, somewhere writes somewhere wrong."
Gottlieb also weighed in on what the holidays might look like this year.
"I think people can gather for the holidays. Certainly Thanksgiving, Christmas. I think people need to judge what the circumstances. So what is the prevalence in their local community? Is it high? Who would are they bringing together? Are they bringing together very young children who aren't vaccinated with older people who may be more vulnerable to the infection? And if the answer is yes, you know, you have to judge the circumstance and the risk that you're creating, there's things you could do to mitigate that. You can use testing, you can get certain people tested if they're unvaccinated before they go into that setting."
He also said the at-home Covid-19 tests could make a difference.
"The at-home tests are reliable, they're sensitive. So they detect infection, their specific meaning when they say you're positive, you're generally positive. They're not as reliable as PCR testing, but they're getting close in terms of the accuracy of those tests."