National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, MD, encouraged people to turn to “respected medical authorities” — including himself — for answers during the pandemic, during a Tuesday webinar co-sponsored by Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative.
“For the most part … you can trust respected medical authorities,” said Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force who has lately come under fire from the Trump administration. “I believe I’m one of them. So, I think you can trust me.”
Attacks against Fauci have come from the White House — with the Washington Post reporting that the latter leaked a document stating that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things” — and fellow task force member Adm. Brett Giroir, MD. During a “Meet the Press” interview Sunday, Giroir, assistant secretary for health, said that he respects Fauci “a lot…[but] Dr. Fauci is not 100% right and he also doesn’t necessarily… have the whole national interest in mind.”
More recently, Trump trade advisor Peter Navarro penned a USA Today op-ed claiming that Fauci “has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on,” although the White House distanced itself from Navarro’s opinion piece, according to the Washington Post. Fauci told The Atlantic that he found the criticism of his record “bizarre.”
Webinar moderator Mo Elleithee, founding executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service in Washington, seemed to be giving Fauci an opportunity to respond to his detractors during an online interview.
Elleithee asked for advice for himself and his own family, and Fauci encouraged him to “stick with respected medical authorities who have a track record of telling the truth; who have a track record of giving information and policy and recommendations based on scientific evidence and good data.”
Fauci added that “it’s entirely understandable that the public can get mixed messages, and then get a bit confused about what they should do.”
Fauci also addressed the issue of reopening schools. “As a general principle, we should try as best as possible to keep the children in school,” Fauci said, citing the “profound” impact on working families, and the negative effects on children as well as other aspects of society of keeping children home.
But he noted that the answers to school reopening will vary depending on geography and “what the dynamics of the outbreak are in your particular region.”
In COVID-19 hotspots, the safety of the children and teachers must be factored into the decision, he emphasized.
“If you’re in a situation where you’re in outbreak mode, then you leave it up to the local individuals … of making a decision based on the judgment of making sure that safety of the children and safety of the teachers are paramount,” Fauci stated.
Fauci was more hopeful on the topic of vaccines, citing data from a phase I trial that showed “really good neutralizing antibodies” and “no adverse events” with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. That candidate will move forward in the trial process, and other candidates will follow at the end of the summer or mid-fall, Fauci said.
“So, I think we’re in a pretty good place when it comes to vaccines,” he said.
However, he acknowledged that when a vaccine is approved and readied for widespread rollout, decisions may need to be made about who will get it first.
“I hope and I think we will, have enough [vaccine] for everyone who needs it,” he said.
Fauci stressed that he would defer to ethicists on such a decision, but as a general principle, he recommended giving the vaccine first to “those who are most vulnerable and [who] would most benefit from it, such as first responders, healthcare providers, essential members of society, [and] people with underlying conditions. Hopefully, you could quickly get everybody vaccinated … but sometimes you have to make difficult decisions.”
“If things work out the way we hope they do, I think by the end of this year and the beginning of calendar year 2021, we will have enough information to know whether the [vaccine] candidates that we’re dealing with are safe and effective,” he said. “Hopefully…we’ll be able to distribute it in an equitable manner to a large number of people.”
Last Updated July 15, 2020
Shannon Firth has been reporting on health policy as MedPage Today’s Washington correspondent since 2014. She is also a member of the site’s Enterprise & Investigative Reporting team. Follow
The webinar also was sponsored by the Institute of Politics and Public Service at the McCourt School of Public Policy (GU Politics), the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, and the Kalmanovitz Initiative on Labor and the Working Poor.
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