With three drug companies on the verge of a breakthrough vaccine against Covid-19, vaccinations could begin by the end of December, said Anthony Fauci, MD, yesterday in a live interview with the Washington Post.
And while the first shots will go to high-risk and priority populations, Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he and his family will be in line when their time comes.
“I can tell you when my turn comes up and the FDA says that this is safe and effective, I myself will get vaccinated, and I will recommend that my family gets vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci told political reporter Robert Costa.
Dr. Fauci said he recognized that people have “Covid-19 fatigue,” but now is the time to “hang in there with public health measures … because help is on the way. We have at least two highly [effective] vaccines, [from Moderna and Pfizer ].”
A third vaccine shown to be highly effective in preventing Covid-19 —AstraZeneca’s AZD1222 — was tested with two different doses, one of which was 90% effective, according to a recent company press release. Dr. Fauci said he hasn’t been fully briefed on the AstraZeneca vaccine yet, but the report is “good news.”
Dr. Fauci said he is aware that some people question the speed of vaccine development and whether the vaccines are safe.
“There was no compromise of safety nor was there compromise of scientific integrity,” he said. The data is analyzed by the Data and Safety Monitoring Board, which is completely independent of the drug companies. “The DSMB said, in both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines, that [they are effective] and safe and protect you even against serious disease.”
In the meantime, maintain the usual precautions against the virus, Dr. Fauci said.
“You might want to reconsider travel plans … and keep meetings indoors to a minimum number of people,” he said. Wearing masks, particularly when indoors, staying six feet apart, avoiding crowds, having meetings outdoors, and washing hands would “ diminish considerably the likelihood that you would get infected.”
Even though vaccination will be selective at first, a highly effective vaccine could help protect everyone, even those who can’t get vaccinated or don’t develop immunity through vaccination, said Dr. Fauci.
Herd immunity can happen once a large number of people are protected — either by vaccination or natural immunity — from the virus and it “has no place to go,” he said. “That’s how viruses die out. That’s how we smashed measles … polio … smallpox.”
The Biden team gets the go-ahead
Also yesterday, the president-elect received official recognition from the Trump administration that a transfer of power will occur in January: the General Services Administration said it will allow Joe Biden and his team access to the funds awarded for the transition of government. Included in that transfer is access to information as well, such as the Trump plan for vaccine distribution.
The Trump administration has been widely criticized for withholding any information it has on the pandemic. Getting a distribution plan in place will require federal, state and local cooperation, wrote Senator Chris Murphy, of Connecticut. He said the delaying tactics could prove to be deadly, he said in an opinion piece on the NBC news website.
‘Most of these vaccines require multiple doses and some require extremely cold storage. As more vaccines receive emergency approvals, they will be added into distribution,” he wrote.
“By refusing to immediately share details of the vaccine distribution plan with the incoming administration, lives may have already been lost.”