Reports are emerging that a COVID-19 vaccine could be available by the end of the year, prompting Dr. Anthony Fauci to advise Americans that returning to normal life is still a long way away. In a question and answer session in late September with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Fauci, the face of the Trump administration’s coronavirus team, explained that Americans should expect social distance guidelines and societal precautions to remain paramount even when a vaccine becomes available.
“The vaccine availability will go a giant step to controlling the infection, but you’re not going to completely eradicate it or eliminate it,” Fauci said. “It will allow us to more quickly and with less stringency get back to some degree of normal but it is not going to eliminate the need to be prudent and careful with our public health measures.”
Fauci believes it’s possible the world could get a successful vaccine by late November, but it’s more likely we’ll know in “November or December.” Even then, many Americans say they’ll initially stay away from the vaccine and Fauci believes it will only be “70-75% effective.”
But Fauci was also pleasantly surprised in early November when Pfizer’s data showed its vaccine candidate was 90% effective and when Moderna revealed a week later that its early data showed its vaccine was effective 94.5% of the time. By mid-December, the Pfizer vaccine was being implemented in the U.K. and the U.S.
Fauci’s comments came after the CDC laid out its extensive COVID-19 vaccine release plan. Once a vaccine becomes available, the hope is to funnel much of the supply to high-risk communities. From there, larger population distribution will depend on large scale efforts to erect sites for public distribution and to accumulate an adequate supply of needles, syringes, and bottles.
In earlier comments to MSNBC, Fauci said these hurdles largely discredited President Trump’s belief that the U.S. is “rounding the corner” on coronavirus. Fauci called the comments “disturbing” and advised Americans to expect normal activities—like going to the movies and seeing live music—to return somewhere in middle or end of 2021. If a vaccine is not produced in this timeline, it could take even longer for life to return to normal.
On Dec. 15, Fauci told MSNBC that the U.S. could achieve herd immunity by the middle of 2021.
“By the time we get to the fall, we can start approaching some degree of relief where the level of infection will be so low in society we can start essentially approaching some form of normality,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fauci continues to face death threats for his work, while Trump in October called him a “disaster.” On Nov. 2, Trump suggested that he might fire Fauci after the election, but that didn’t happen. Now, Fauci will go to work under a Joe Biden administration.
According to the CDC, once a vaccine becomes available, the institute aims to avoid any out of pocket expenses for the American public. “The CDC’s goal is to have enough COVID-19 vaccine for all in the United States who wish to be vaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said. Either way, Fauci said people will have to continue wearing masks even after they get vaccinated.
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