Dr. Fauci: ‘We may be able to put this coronavirus outbreak behind us’ — but he says Americans must play a critical role


Whether a vaccine is effective — or not — will also depend on the role the public plays.

That’s according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an expert in infectious diseases for the last four decades, who was speaking at a Wall Street Journal CEO Council in a remote interview. “One of the things you need to understand, it’s the combination of how effective a vaccine is and how many people use it,” he said.

This is all the more important if the vaccine developed for COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, is moderately rather than highly effective. “If the vaccine is moderately effective, enough that you definitely want to use it, then you’re going to have to get a lot more people to get vaccinated to get that veil of protection in the community,” Fauci told the event on Thursday.


‘With the combination of a good vaccine along with public-health measures, we may be able to put this coronavirus outbreak behind us the way we put the original SARS behind us and, hopefully, in the way we put MERS, or the Middle East Respiratory System, behind us.’


— Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

“With the combination of a good vaccine along with public-health measures, we may be able to put this coronavirus outbreak behind us the way we put the original SARS behind us and, hopefully, in the way we put MERS, or the Middle East Respiratory System, behind us. I think we can do it with the combination of a vaccine and good public-health measures,” the veteran epidemiologist said.

Fauci said last month that he was hopeful that a coronavirus vaccine could be developed by early 2021, but has repeatedly said it’s unlikely that a vaccine will deliver 100% immunity; he said the best realistic outcome, based on other vaccines, would be 70% to 75% effective. The measles vaccine, he said, is among the most effective by providing 97% immunity.

Reviews of past studies have found that, on average, the flu vaccine is about 50% to 60% effective for healthy adults who are between 18 and 64 years old, according to a review of studies by the Mayo Clinic. “The vaccine may sometimes be less effective,” that report said. “Even when the vaccine doesn’t completely prevent the flu, it may lessen the severity of your illness.”

AstraZeneca
AZN,
+1.46%,
in combination with Oxford University; BioNTech SE
BNTX,
+1.12%
and partner Pfizer
PFE,
+0.10%
; Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
-0.82%
; Merck & Co.
MERK,

; Moderna
MRNA,
-1.38%
; and Sanofi
SAN,
-1.41%
and GlaxoSmithKline
GSK,
+0.12%
are among those currently working toward COVID-19 vaccines.

Also see: Sweden embraced herd immunity, while the U.K. abandoned the idea — so why do they both have high COVID-19 fatality rates?

Last May, a majority Americans (55%) said they would get vaccinated for COVID-19 if and when a vaccine becomes available, but that number has fallen to 32%, according to the latest Yahoo/You Gov poll conducted from Sept. 9 to Sept. 11, and released this week. For the first time, more people said they won’t get vaccinated (33%) or they’re unsure if they’ll get vaccinated (34%).

Commentators point to fears that a vaccine will be pushed through before election day, a hardcore group of anti-vaxxers, access to health care, and confusion about its possible effectiveness, among other reasons. The number of Republicans who said they’d get vaccinated fell to 33% from 47% in May in the latest poll, while the corresponding number of Democrats fell to 42% from 70% in May.

Fauci has cautioned against rushing a vaccine for political purposes without first knowing it was safe. At the Republican National Convention, President Donald Trump said last month, “We are delivering lifesaving therapies, and will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner. We will defeat the virus, end the pandemic, and emerge stronger than ever before.”

The president’s convention address appeared to somewhat accelerate the timeline laid out by “Operation Warp Speed,” his administration’s effort to financially support the rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. Under that program, the administration says it aims to have initial vaccine doses available by January 2021.

As of Friday, COVID-19 has infected 30,183,223 people worldwide, which mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases, and killed 946,158. The U.S. still has the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases (6,675,560), followed by India (5,214,677) and Brazil (4,455,386) and Russia (1,081,152), according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

And without a vaccine to provide adequate immunity and/or public-health measures to encourage social distancing? Fauci previously said that willfully aiming for “herd immunity” — as Sweden has attempted — instead of banning live events, and closing schools and businesses to flatten the curve of new cases of COVID-19, would have dire consequences for the American people.

Stocks have been on a roller-coaster ride in recent months. The Dow Jones Industrial Index
DJIA,
-0.46%,
the S&P 500
SPX,
-0.84%
and the Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
-1.26%
closed lower Thursday, as investors digested Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s dour economic outlook along with lackluster U.S. economic data that may need additional fiscal help.

“I’m optimistic about this even though we’re going through, globally, a terrible time right now,” Fauci told the WSJ CEO Council, “there will be an end to this, and we’ll be able to get back to normal.”




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