Former FDA chief says new CDC mask guidance could lead to bump in vaccination rates

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The pace of vaccinations has slowed in recent weeks

Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb believes the CDC’s new mask guidance will likely lead to an increase in COVID-19 vaccinations among people who were previously hesitant to get inoculated. 

“This is going to provide a pretty strong incentive for a lot of people who might’ve been on the fence about getting vaccinated to go out and get vaccinated,” Gottlieb said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

On Thursday, the CDC updated its mask guidance to state that people who have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks can go maskless in most indoor settings and in crowds. People will still be required to wear masks in some places, such as in hospitals, on airplanes, and on public transportation. 

Declining vaccination rates 

All adults over the age of 16 are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, but the pace of U.S. vaccinations has been falling in recent weeks. People who were most eager to get vaccinated did so early on, and now the numbers are stagnating.

Experts say vaccine hesitancy will make it challenging for some states to achieve the goal set by President Biden of having 70% of adults vaccinated. 

Right now, 36% of the nation is fully vaccinated and about 47% of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to CDC data. The White House recently announced new efforts to boost vaccination numbers, including making vaccines available on a walk-in basis and spending tens of millions of dollars on education and outreach campaigns through states, national organizations, and community groups. 

Gottlieb, who now serves on the board at Pfizer, stated that the CDC’s new guidance could in itself be effective in pushing vaccination numbers higher. 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a bump up in the number of people going out to get vaccinated because now, being vaccinated provides more value. You can go around in a mask in an honest fashion,” he said.

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