Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Spectrum News he wouldn’t hesitate to get vaccinated for COVID-19 when the time comes, and he emphasized that Americans can feel confident in any approved coronavirus vaccine, as well as the fact that every state should get equal access when it’s finally distributed.
“Independent bodies have evaluated the data who are beholden to no one – not to the administration, not to the companies, not to anyone,” Dr. Fauci told Spectrum News' Jeevan Vittal. “I can tell you I myself would not hesitate when my turn comes to take such a vaccine and to recommend to my family that they also take the vaccine.”
In the last week, two companies – Pfizer and Moderna – have both announced their vaccines are at least 90% effective, raising hopes they’ll be a boon to Americans amid a worsening pandemic.
Dr. Fauci also addressed comments from President Trump last week that he would delay sending an approved COVID-19 vaccine to New York until Gov. Andrew Cuomo authorizes it.
“Everyone should have access to the vaccine,” he said. “But that's not within my purview or my lane, so I can’t guarantee that. Certainly you'd want to see equal access to all regions of the country,” Dr. Fauci told Spectrum News.
Last week, Gov. Cuomo criticized the Trump administration’s distribution plan, which he said could worsen racial health disparities due to its reliance on private pharmacies. Cuomo said he’d sue the administration to ensure equal access.
When asked if he’d spoken with president-elect Biden or his transition team, Dr. Fauci said he hadn’t and declined to speak about it further.
He did emphasize the need to double down on things like universal wearing of masks and other precautions, both now and well after a vaccine is distributed.
“Everything seems to be going in the wrong direction,” Dr. Fauci said. “We don't necessarily and will not have a national shutdown, but there are certain fundamental public health measures that we know work. It's not guesswork. We know they work now.”
He explained that a vaccine alone won’t end the pandemic, and it will take time to ensure it’s working across the country.
“You don't know the degree to which you are protected,” Dr. Fauci said. “You can pull back on some of the stringent public health measures, but you don't want to abandon them completely and put yourself and your family at risk.”
Dr. Fauci also gave advice for Americans planning to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, saying each person should assess their plans on a “family-by-family basis.” He said that includes considering family members who are at a higher risk and whether people can avoid exposure or get tested beforehand.
“I'm doing that with my own family in the sense of bringing in my adult daughters who live in various parts of the country. They do not want to come home,” Dr. Fauci explained. “They would love to be with me and I would love to be with them. But they're very sensitive about my age [and] that I'm in a vulnerable group.
Overall, Dr. Fauci said he’s optimistic about the direction of the pandemic as long as Americans don’t abandon public health measures, despite some differences in restrictions across different states.
“What matters is that a public health issue is a consistent issue across the country. We should not be politicizing it,” Dr. Fauci told Spectrum News.
“We should be pulling together. We are a nation, the United States of America, and we should be pulling together as a nation,” he added.