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In regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is some good news right now: Over 76 percent of eligible Americans have gotten vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); there are under 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day for the first time in more than two months, The New York Times reports; and boosters are being rolled out to keep protection high among the vaccinated. But, according to Anthony Fauci, MD, the White House's chief medical adviser, while things are "certainly going in the right direction," he's warning that it's not time to declare victory yet. In a new interview with Dana Bash on CNN's State of the Union, Fauci said, "Don't just throw your hands up and say it's all over," because another COVID surge could soon come.
During his Oct. 10 interview on State of the Union, Fauci did confirm there's reason to be optimistic. "We do want to celebrate and look forward to the fact that we are going in the right direction," he said, noting that the seven-day average of new COVID cases is below 100,000, hospitalizations are below 10,000, and deaths are below 2,000–numbers we haven't seen in months. "That's the good news. And, hopefully, it's going to continue to go in that trajectory, downward," Fauci said. But, he cautioned COVID-19 may not be done with us yet.
"We have to just be careful that we don't prematurely declare victory in many respects. We still have around 68 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated that have not yet gotten vaccinated," he said. "If you look at the history of the surges and the diminutions in cases over a period of time, they can bounce back."
Fauci warned that we could face another COVID surge, if more people in the U.S. don't get vaccinated. He also pointed out that the potential emergency use authorization of the vaccines for younger kids (ages 5 to 11) could help keep numbers moving in the right direction. "The data regarding the safety and the immunogenicity of vaccines in children is going to be coming before the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] relatively soon. And if they then wind up getting vaccinated, then yet you have another segment of the population that can be protected," he explained.
On CBS's Face the Nation on Oct. 10, former FDA commissioner and Pfizer board member Scott Gottlieb, MD, gave some insight into exactly when children under 12 will be able to get their shots. (Right now, only the Pfizer vaccine has emergency use authority for those ages 12 to 17.) "The FDA [advisory committee] is meeting Oct. 26 … to discuss this application. Assuming that they authorize the use of the vaccine, CDC's Advisory Committee is going to meet on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3 and make a final decision about who should be eligible for the vaccine. And assuming both of those events go well, and you get a positive recommendation out of both the FDA and CDC, this should be available almost immediately after the CDC makes a final recommendation and be available in pharmacies and perhaps pediatricians' offices as well," he said.
However, Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan pointed out according to a poll the show did, only a little more than a third of parents say they will vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds as soon as they are authorized, while a quarter of parents will wait and see. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's National Kids Count, there are nearly 28.4 million kids between the ages of 5 and 11 in the U.S. If a third of them get vaccinated, that'd be about 9.4 million, which won't move the needle all that much, but is certainly a step forward.
"I was actually encouraged by the results of that survey," Gottlieb said of the CBS poll. "There's a lot of parents like me that, as soon as the vaccines available for their children, are going to go out and get their kids vaccinated, that see the benefits of vaccination. There's a lot of parents that still have a lot of questions around vaccination. I think for them, they should have a conversation with their pediatrician to try to get comfortable with the idea of vaccinating kids."
On State of the Union, Fauci was asked, in addition to increased vaccinations, what else needs to happen before restrictions can be lifted and we can declare victory over COVID-19. Unfortunately, he said we're still a far way off from that. "Right now, even though we just said it's going in the right direction, we have less than 100,000 cases a day, it's about 95,000 as the seven-day average—that's still way too high," he said.
"We want to get way, way down to that. I mean, I'd like to see it well below 10,000, and even much lower than that," he explained. "But when you're at 95,000, that's still a situation where you have a high degree of dynamic circulation of virus in the community." The closest we've gotten to 10,000 was at the end of June and beginning of July, when the seven-day average was around 12,000. But soon after, the Delta variant took over. By mid-July, daily new cases doubled. They continued to climb until early September, peaking at 176,000, and they've been declining ever since, according to The New York Times data.
"We don't want to always be on our edge that [another COVID surge] is going to happen," Fauci said. "Because it won't if we do what we should be doing, namely, particularly, getting more people vaccinated."