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‘Hardest Part’ Of Pandemic Still To Come, Former FDA Commissioner Says

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Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday that the U.S. has yet to face the toughest part of the coronavirus pandemic.

As the U.S. continues seeing rising coronavirus cases without a vaccine, the pandemic is likely to worsen, Dr. Scott Gottlieb said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” Coronavirus-related hospitalizations and cases have been steadily increasing since September, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

“We’re going to get through it,” Gottlieb said, according to CNBC. “We’re probably in the 7th inning of the acute phase of this pandemic right now, but the hardest part is probably ahead.”

“It looks like we’re entering a pretty difficult period right now. The cases are accelerating around the country. There’s really no backstop here,” he continued. (RELATED: White House To Block FDA Vaccine Guidelines That Would’ve Delayed Approval Past Election)

Gottlieb was the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief between 2017 and 2019, according to CNBC. He currently serves on the board of pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which is developing a coronavirus vaccine. He is also a board member of genetic testing start-up Tempus and biotech company Illumina.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a House hearing in 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a House hearing in 2017. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Gottlieb added that the best-case scenario for the U.S. is if pharmaceutical companies apply for emergency-use vaccine authorization by the end of November, CNBC reported. The FDA would then take two to four weeks to review the trial data and approve the vaccines for public use.

“If the FDA authorizes those vaccines, it’s going to be for a very select population: People who are elderly and high risk. It’s going to take at least two to four weeks to vaccinate that population, and then they’re going to have to wait three to four weeks to get a second dose,” Gottlieb said, according to CNBC.

The U.S. government has given significant funding and resources to pharmaceutical companies since March as part of Operation Warp Speed, the multiagency effort to produce a coronavirus vaccine quickly. The goal of the operation is to produce 300 million doses of “safe and effective vaccines” by January 2021.

President Donald Trump has insisted that a vaccine could be produced before the Nov. 3 presidential election, in which his handling of the pandemic will be a major issue for voters.

Meanwhile, Europe has also faced an uptick in coronavirus cases. Europe overtook the U.S. on Oct. 12 in average new cases per day, for the first time in months.

“It does seem like we are at a tipping point in terms of infection numbers,” Flavio Toxvaerd, an economics of infectious diseases expert at the University of Cambridge, told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

Trump declared a national emergency in March as coronavirus spread rapidly around the world. More than 211,000 Americans have died from coronavirus while more than 8 million have contracted it as of Monday afternoon, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

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