Anthony Fauci has said that Americans will soon be able to walk into a CVS or Walgreens and get their COVID vaccine, in an encouraging sign for the nation.
Fauci, the nation’s top public health expert, spoke to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday in a Facebook Live chat.
He said that ‘help is on the way’ – but cautioned: ‘it’s not here yet’.
On Tuesday the advisory committee will meet with the CDC to look at who gets the vaccine first, with healthcare workers and those in nursing homes likely to be first, in December, followed by seniors. The FDA, ultimately in charge of approving the vaccine, is due to meet on December 10.
‘By the time we get to April they will have likely taken care of the high priority and then the general population of normal, healthy young men or women, 30, 40 years old, no underlying health conditions, can walk into a CVS or a Walgreens and get vaccinated.
Mark Zuckerberg spoke to Dr Anthony Fauci on Monday about a vaccine against COVID
‘I would think through April and May, the overwhelming majority of those who want to can get vaccinated. The challenge will be to convince people to get vaccinated.
‘You want 75-80 per cent to get vaccinated. If that happens, then by the end of the second quarter of the year, the pandemic as we know it will be well, well suppressed past the danger point.’
Fauci, 79, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the vaccine had been created incredibly quickly, ‘but not at the expense of safety’.
‘The career scientists at the FDA – not the politicians – evaluate the data. Another independent committee works with the FDA to determine whether it is ready.
‘That entire process, Mark, is independent and transparent because ultimately all the data – the foundations for those decision – will be made public, and published in a peer-reviewed journal.’
He said that it was unclear yet whether the vaccine may need a booster several years later.
The vaccine is expected to be made available to the general public in the US around April
Scientists have been able to work at unprecedented speed thanks to advances in technology
Asked about side effects of the vaccine, he said some people may get an aching arm, or a mild fever, which should go away in 24 hours, maximum 48.
‘The adverse effects are low grade – they are mild, and will go away,’ he said.
‘What that tells you is that the body is responding well, and making the kind of response you want.’
He said ‘the relative risks of this, compared to other risks, is miniscule’ – emphasizing the risks of every day things like getting in a car.
Fauci told Zuckerberg that the U.S. was about to experience ‘a surge, superimposed on a surge’.
‘What we have done with Thanksgiving, Mark, we’re not going to see the repercussions of that for two to three weeks now,’ he said.
‘So because of travel, people congregating et cetera, you don’t see the difference in two, three, five days. You see the difference in two to three weeks from now.
‘Which would put it right at the time that people would be traveling for Christmas.
‘So all things considered, we are not in a good place.’
Fauci said that travel over Thanksgiving meant the U.S. was ‘not in a good place’ for the virus
He said that he ‘hadn’t discussed in any substantial detail’ what Ron Klain, Joe Biden’s chief of staff – who headed up the Ebola response – will do regarding the pandemic.
‘He certainly knows what he’s doing,’ Fauci said.
Asked about holiday celebrations, and what his advice would be, Fauci replied: ‘We’re going to have to diminish, to the extent possible, travel. Keep gatherings indoors to the immediate family unit. Don’t have a friend of a friend, who brings a friend who has traveled out of state.’
He admitted it was ‘the antithesis of the warmth of the season’, but it was recommended.
‘My bit of advice would be – I know as difficult as it is – each family needs to do a risk-benefit analysis.
‘Do I have someone in my home with a vulnerability? If I do, do I really want to take the risk they won’t have future Christmases and Hanukkahs and Easters.’
He said that states need to realize they must work together to defeat the virus, urging consistent and uniform recommendations.
‘Let’s get it out of the political arena. Let’s forget this divisiveness. Divisiveness in an approach to a public health program just does not make sense.’
Zuckerberg asked about ‘long haul’ patients.
Fauci said there were two types – those who had long-term damage to heart and lungs from pneumonia, and those who had a mysterious long-lasting secondary effect.
He said people had reported ‘brain fog’, exhaustion, shortness of breath and problems sleeping, and said they intend to study it further.
On Sunday around 136,000 new U.S. coronavirus cases were reported – a substantial decline from last week, but a figure which analysts say should be taken with caution, as it may be because fewer people were going to get tested over Thanksgiving week.
A total of 91,635 people were in hospitals with Covid-19 – almost twice as many as there were on November 1, and triple the number on October 1.