Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost expert on infectious diseases, said he believes a new breakthrough coronavirus vaccine could be available before the end of the year for the most vulnerable populations if all goes smoothly through the final stages.
“They will dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s, but given the impressive nature of the data, I believe that it should go through smoothly, that by December we will be able to have doses available for people who are being given the highest priority to get it first,” Fauci said during an appearance on MSNBC on Tuesday.
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced on Monday that it and its German partner BioNTech have developed a vaccine against COVID-19 that is 90 percent effective, based on early test results that have yet to be fully approved by independent researchers at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Pfizer is expected to file for emergency approval with the FDA later this month. The Trump administration has promised to expedite the approval process to accelerate efforts to end the pandemic that has killed nearly 240,000 people in the United States so far this year. Cases continue to rise, and experts have warned that cold weather, forcing more indoor activities, could increase infection rates.
Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, who has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, said he would take the vaccine himself and advise his family members to do the same when it receives full approval.
“I trust Pfizer; I trust the FDA,” he said. “These are colleagues of mine for decades – professional scientists.”
Fauci has been in frequent conflict with President Donald Trump during the pandemic, with Trump recently proposing to press for Fauci’s removal from office after the election. During a rally in Florida in the final days of the election campaign, Trump’s supporters shouted “Fire Fauci!”, prompting the president to react with a sly reaction: “Don’t tell anyone, but let me wait until shortly after the election.
Major news channels and the Associated Press have predicted that Democratic rival Joe Biden beat Trump in last week’s election, but official results are still pending.
Trump cannot dismiss Fauci directly because he is not a presidential nominee, but the president could put pressure on members of his administration to overthrow the doctor.
“He has often been wrong,” Trump told the crowd at the November 2 rally. “But he is a nice man. He’s often wrong.”
Meanwhile, Biden defended Fauci against Trump’s attacks. After the Florida rally, Biden tweeted that the country “needs a president who actually listens to experts like Dr. Fauci.
On MSNBC, Fauci said he hoped he would not be removed from his post.
“I don’t think that would be helpful to our common goal,” Fauci said. “We all want this pandemic to end. Right now, every minute of my life is dedicated to trying to end this pandemic, so I hope I can continue to do so. I think I am doing it well. I have done it for many, many years, and I have done it in many different circumstances, including six administrations, so that I can focus like a laser beam on my work and end this epidemic”.
While the number of cases in the nation continues to rise, cases in the United States may continue to rise in the coming weeks, Fauci said.
“I think it’s pretty clear what’s happening here,” Fauci said. “Whenever you have a respiratory disease and you get into the cooler months of fall and the cold months of winter, you do more things indoors than outdoors. This is just another ingredient that increases the risk.
Health experts have advised people to wear masks and other facial protection to try and prevent the spread of the disease – a position that has evolved as research into the novel coronavirus has increased.
Fauci said new research published this week was an even stronger argument for masks. While experts have suggested masks as one means of containing the disease that protects others, Fauci said it now appears that mask wearers also protect themselves by using face masks.
“Recent studies have shown that both are now possible,” he said. “It is a road that goes both ways.”