Fauci Calls for Americans to Pull Together, Says 'Help Is on the Way'
Anthony Fauci, M.D., spoke with HD Live! about the safety and efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine and doubling down on efforts to stop the surge in cases
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 25, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- During a Thanksgiving week marred by the coronavirus pandemic, Anthony Fauci, M.D., spoke with HD Live! about the need for uniformity in response to the pandemic. And he assured that "help is on the way" in the form of a vaccine.
"We are in very serious, challenging times, but we do have the capability of blunting that acceleration, of having it turn around and having the slope go down, particularly with the help of vaccines," said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He called for the United States to "pull together" and double down on mitigation efforts and public health measures.
The United States is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases with over 20 consecutive days of more than 100,000 cases per day. "We range 1,000 or more deaths per day, sometimes close to 1,500 or more," Fauci said. "We have over 80,000 hospitalizations." The situation is confounded by the arrival of the colder months when more activities will be done indoors and people are looking forward to gathering with family and friends for the holidays.
"It's difficult to not do these things that are so natural to our society," Fauci said. "I've asked the family units to take a moment and think about the risk-benefit calculation," especially when it comes to elderly family members and those with underlying conditions.
Fauci called for all Americans to uniformly abide by the public health measures as we await the imminent arrival of vaccines, the speed of which Fauci said is unprecedented. "We went from identifying the virus in January to having a safe and efficacious vaccine by the middle and end of November, ready to be distributed in December," he said. "That's an extraordinary feat," to accomplish that "without sacrificing safety or scientific integrity."
In fact, just this month, early results from manufacturers Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna have reportedly shown their COVID-19 vaccines are 90 and 94.5 percent effective, respectively. "The speed of [vaccine development] is a reflection of the extraordinarily exquisite -- breathtaking in some respects -- advances in science, which is allowing us to do things in weeks to months that formerly took years," Fauci said
According to Fauci, higher-risk groups will start to receive the vaccine toward the middle and end of December. "As we get into the first quarter of 2021, more and more people will get vaccinated," he said. "We are going to have the help that we need to put an end to this, but what we want to do now is double down to make sure that we don't get infected or spread infection before we get the full benefit of the vaccines."
To achieve a full "umbrella of protection" over the United States, Fauci said 75 to 80 percent of people will need to be vaccinated. "Hopefully, that can get done worldwide, so that globally we can crush this outbreak," he said. "I'm not sure we can eradicate it, but we can certainly come close to eliminating it if we all pull together."
To those questioning the safety of the vaccines, Fauci refers them to the process, which has included trials of tens of thousands of people and data examination by independent groups of vaccinologists, scientists, immunologists, virologists, and statisticians, all independent of the federal government and the pharmaceutical companies. "The career scientists -- not the politicians -- look at the data and work with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)," he said. "And then you have the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [that decides] with the help of [ACIP] to determine who should get it and with what priority. There are so many levels of independence and transparency there that people should feel confident that the vaccine is determined to be safe and effective."