With two promising COVID vaccines in late-stage clinical trials right now, it finally feels like an end to the coronavirus pandemic may be in sight. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) and one of the leading members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, confirms that the U.S. has the potential to see significantly diminished coronavirus transmission rates in the near future, but there's one catch: Enough people must be willing to get the COVID vaccine, Fauci says. Read on to find out how many, and for more vaccine information, check out This Is What Getting a COVID Vaccine Feels Like, According to Volunteers.
In a new interview with New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin as part of the paper's DealBook Online Summit, Fauci explained that Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines have had "striking results" in clinical trials—with 94.5 percent and 90 percent efficacy rates respectively—but the reliability of the vaccine is only one part of the puzzle. "Very closely connected with that is how many people really take the vaccine," said Fauci. "So, we have a challenge ahead."
The infectious disease expert said that it's important "to make sure the overwhelming majority of the people in the country get vaccinated," and that even a 50 percent vaccination rate would leave the U.S. with a "considerable public health challenge" on our hands. "At least 80 to 85 percent" of people would need to be vaccinated to meaningfully reduce infection rates, Fauci explained.
While distributing a coronavirus vaccine to an adequate number of people is an essential step in stopping the spread of coronavirus, it's just that: one step. Read on to find out what else Fauci had to say about getting the pandemic under control. And for risks you shouldn't be taking, check out The 6 Worst Places You're Going Right Now, New Study Says.
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Fauci said things could be back to normal by next fall.
While it may feel as though COVID will be here forever, Fauci told Sorkin that "there is a light at the end of the tunnel" in terms of the pandemic. If an adequate number of people get vaccinated, "as we get into the fall [of 2021], we could be quite close to some degree of normality, certainly from the standpoint of the economy, of getting businesses open, of getting sports events being attended," said Fauci.
However, without enough people getting vaccinated, masks and social distancing will have to remain part of everyone's routines. "You're not going to have a vaccine completely replace public health measures… the degree of stringency of it is going to depend on the level of infection in the community," Fauci explained. And if you want to protect yourself, read up on The Surprising Supplement That Can Cut Your COVID Risk, New Study Says.
And he said home tests could be rolled out in the future.
"What we really need now is… testing that people can essentially do at home, like a pregnancy test, because the spread is community spread of people without symptoms," Fauci explained. The doctor said that the only way to "get to the bottom of the community spread" from people who don't realize they're infected is through continued testing of asymptomatic individuals. And if you're worried about a COVID surge near you, These Are All the States Locking Down Again.
Therapeutics will be a big part of treating COVID in the future, Fauci explained.
While Fauci admitted that existing therapeutic treatments for severe COVID patients, like dexamethasone, have "dramatically" decreased death rates, he said it's important for the medical community to create therapeutics for people with less severe cases of the virus, too. "What we do need are medications that are orally administered that you can give to someone who has symptoms to keep them from requiring hospitalization," Fauci explained. And for the latest COVID news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
And he also urged caution surrounding holiday celebrations.
With the holidays fast approaching, Fauci recommended that families "make a risk-benefit assessment" before deciding to get together. "You have to ask yourself: for this particular holiday season, do you really want to take the risk of endangering the health of a loved one?" he asked.
He admitted that his own family would not spend the holiday together because of those very concerns. "My daughters—who are adult, professional women in different parts of the country—have made a decision, as difficult as it is… that they want to protect their daddy."
So, how will he be spending the holiday? "I'm going to sit down with my lovely wife, have a meal, and watch them on Zoom." And for more on the coronavirus situation in your area, check out How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.