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Stories and information in our region on the COVID-19 pandemic.

WSHU Joins Dr. Fauci For A Fireside Chat On COVID-19 Vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington.
Alex Brandon
/
Associated Press
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington.

WSHU, as a public media leader, participated in a “Fireside Chat” with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, as part of the COVID Collaborative. The discussion focused on the intersection of health science and political science.

The session was co-hosted by former Governors Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho. The two serve as co-chairs of the COVID Collaboration. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a member of the COVID Collaborative, which brings together bipartisan leaders from business, labor, government, civil rights and healthcare organizations to deal with the pandemic.

Fauci said while there are still many questions to be answered about the vaccine, there are several indisputable facts: it is safe, and it is effective. He said that in order to achieve “herd immunity,” 70-85% of the population needs to be vaccinated. He said it is effective against the two variant viruses that have been found in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

But he cautioned that it remains to be seen how long the protection lasts, and whether a booster shot will be needed. He said he hopes it can be dealt with once and for all, similar to the measles vaccine, and not like the annual flu shot. He believes once “herd immunity” is achieved, normal activities can resume, such as eating in restaurants and going to the theater.

Fauci said this is a global fight, and that the richer nations need to share resources and assist in helping poorer nations in getting the vaccine. He highlighted the work of COVAX, the global initiative of the World Health Organization to provide equitable access to vaccines. Fauci also pointed out that the virus is affecting communities of color at a disproportionate rate; they work low-paying high-risk jobs, don’t have access to quality medical care, and often suffer from co-morbidities.

Getting kids back in class needs to be a priority, both for the kids’ and parents’ sake, he said. And Fauci expects the CDC to release new guidelines within days.

Finally, Fauci said that the mental health aspects of the pandemic can not be overlooked. He said the prolonged stress of the past year is greater than it was during the Great Depression or the Second World War.

Fauci said the most puzzling aspects of COVID-19 is that most people who get it are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. However, for certain groups, including the elderly or others with underlying health issues, it can be devastating. The other puzzle is that the biggest source of transmission are those who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. Fauci said this is why continued mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing are still required even as the vaccine is rolled out. He called this the most difficult pandemic he has come across in his career.