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NATIONAL HEALTH/SCI/TECH

Fauci Expresses Optimism for Vaccine in House Testimony

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, addresses his remarks at a coronavirus update briefing Monday, March 16, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen) Date: 16 March 2020, 16:00 Source: White House Press Briefing Author: The White House from Washington, DC

“We are going very quickly. I do not believe that there will be vaccines so far ahead of us that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccine.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, appeared before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Friday. Fauci expressed optimism for a vaccine in his testimony, alongside two other US officials. The doctor also resisted baiting to comment on Black Lives Matter protests, opting to reiterate a firm stance on wearing masks.

Fast Doesn’t Mean Rushed

While clinical trials are progressing, many of them in their third and final stage of vaccine testing, Fauci told the committee that a vaccine could be delivered by the year’s end or early 2021. Although he cautioned there is no guarantee an effective vaccine will be developed, he remained optimistic in his house testimony that the world will soon have a solution, ABC News reported.

“I don’t think that will have everybody getting it immediately in the beginning. Probably will be phased in, and that’s the reason why we have the committee is to do that prioritization of who should get it first,” he told lawmakers.

He also dispelled the notion that the US government’s push to fast track development of a vaccine would affect the quality.

“I know to some people this seems like it is so fast that they might be compromising safety and scientific integrity, and I can tell you that is absolutely not the case,” Fauci said.

Fauci Avoids Getting Trapped in Politics

Fauci was briefly engaged by Rep. Jim Jordan, R–Ohio, in questioning over the Black Lives Matter protests, Reuters reported. Jordan asked, “Should we limit protesting? You make all kinds of recommendations. You make comments on dating, on baseball, and everything you could imagine.”

The doctor did not directly address any particular activity, but instead reaffirmed his blanket pandemic guidance.

“I’m not favoring anybody over anybody,” Fauci answered. “I’m not going to opine on limiting anything … I’m telling you what is the danger, and you can make your own conclusion about that. You should stay away from crowds, no matter where the crowds are.”

Jordan then tweeted, “Can’t go to church. Can’t go to work. Can’t go to school. Even Dr. Fauci says protesting is dangerous. But Democrats encourage people to riot and protest in the streets.”

No National Strategy Made the Virus Worse

Fauci also fielded questions pertaining to the rate of COVID-19 cases in the US versus Europe and Asias. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D–S.C., asked the doctor to justify a chart illustrating the difference in infection rates between the three geographic areas. Fauci simply explained that shutdown measures in Europe and Asia were more aggressive and thereby effective at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

“When they shut down, they shut down to the tune of about 95 percent, getting their baseline down to tens or hundreds of cases a day,” Fauci said. The US, however, only shut down 50% and had a significantly higher baseline of daily cases, The New York Times reported.

When questioned by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D–Md., about the lack of a unified, national shutdown strategy, Fauci affirmed that the “diversity of response” was indeed a factor in contributing to a rising infection rate.

Pssst, while you're here...

“In the attempt to reopen in some situations states did not abide strictly by the guidelines that the task force and the White House has put out. And others that even did abide by it, the people in the state actually were congregating in crowds and not wearing masks,” said Fauci.

He added that the virus will probably not simply disappear, even with a vaccine rollout due to its “highly transmissible” nature, CNBC reported. Despite this, Fauci expressed optimism in his House testimony, particularly at the speed of clinical trials. He also said that the US will not lag behind other states in getting a vaccine to its people. 

“We are going very quickly,” he said. “I do not believe that there will be vaccines so far ahead of us that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccine.”

The President Responds

President Donald Trump took issue with the suggestion that his administration is responsible for the prevalence of COVID-19. 

“Somebody please tell Congressman Clyburn, who doesn’t have a clue, that the chart he put up indicating more CASES for the U.S. than Europe, is because we do MUCH MORE testing than any other country in the World. If we had no testing, or bad testing, we would show very few CASES,” Trump tweeted.

The positive test rate in America exceeds that of Europe, The New York Times reported. Therefore more tests is likely not the reason for a higher number of cases.

Support for Reopening Schools

Trump has pushed for schools to reopen in the fall and Fauci supported the idea to use the opportunity to learn more about the virus transmission, he said at a town hall event on Tuesday, Newsweek reported.

“As you try to get back to school, we’re going to be learning about that. In many respects, unfortunately, though this may sound a little scary and harsh—I don’t mean it to be that way—is that you’re going to actually be part of the experiment of the learning curve of what we need to know. Remember, early on when we shut down the country as it were, the schools were shut down, so we don’t know the full impact, we don’t have the total database of knowing what there is to expect.”

During his House testimony, Fauci was joined by Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Redfield added his weight to the idea of resuming classes in the fall, provided it is done safely.

“It’s really important to realize it’s not public health versus the economy about school opening, it’s public health versus public health of the K-through-12 to get the schools open. We’ve got to do it safely and we have to be able to accommodate,” Redfield said.

He added that 7.1 million children are at risk of losing mental health services and nutritional benefits that schools provide.

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Daniel Davis

Daniel Davis is Managing Editor for The Osage County Herald-Chronicle in Kansas and also covers International news for Inside Over, a Milan-based global affairs publication. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Outside of writing, he enjoys photography and one day hopes to return to video production. Learn more about him at his website danieldavis.la.

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