Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned Wednesday that “we’re in for a whopper” of a flu season due to a lack of immunity in the US population.
Gottlieb, who helmed the FDA under President Trump and serves on Pfizer’s board of directors, made the chilling prediction during an interview on CNBC about workplace safety amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We haven’t seen a flu season last year — we’re in for a whopper because we haven’t put immunity into the population in at least one and maybe now two years. When the flu does come back, and it will come back, it’s going to come back very aggressively,” he said.
Gottlieb explained that the nation “hasn’t had much flu immunity in a number of years and so we need to be mindful of that, we could see a situation either this year or next year where you have a really bad flu season.
“And if there’s a mismatch between the flu vaccine the circulating strain, it could be very bad. And then you’re going to have COVID on top of that, so businesses are going to have to do things differently,” he continued.
The former FDA chief said the country is moving from the pandemic phase of COVID-19 to “a more endemic phase, meaning that this is going to become a persistent risk, a persistent virus that circulates every year, much like influenza.”
He added: “I do believe this is the last major surge of infection, even if you see new variants, they’re likely to emerge within the Delta lineage, and hopefully we’ll be able to vaccinate against them in the future.”
Gottlieb also said COVID-19 will circulate like the flu.
“I think it’s going to be a risk at least on par with the flu and we already have a flu season and so if you sort of layer on top of our ordinary flu season now COVID season, and it causes a similar amount of death and disease,” he said.
The expert said that businesses must think about how to create a safe work environment for their employees.
Among the measures he cited were allowing more flexible schedules, offering the opportunity to work remotely, installing better air filtration systems and finding alternative modes of transportation.
“I think the total hit on public health and also productivity is going to be too great for us to sustain and just be business as usual,” said Gottlieb, whose new book is titled “Uncontrolled Spread: Why Covid-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic.”