Fighting the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Conversation with Anthony Fauci
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, joins CNN Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, to discuss the current state of the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent surge in cases as the US reopens. Fauci talks about the US response to the pandemic, including missed opportunities to curtail the impact of the coronavirus early on as well as the difficulties in now containing community spread of the virus. With three vaccine candidates entering phase three clinical trials, Fauci provides an update on the progress in developing a safe and effective vaccine and predicts when and how Americans may have widespread access to a Covid-19 vaccination.
Each US state handled the reopening process differently. Fauci says the intention of the government was not to lock down forever, but instead reopen in a measured way as the situation was constantly evolving.
Big Idea“Now we’re seeing the consequences of community spread...When you have community spread it's insidious because there are so many people in the community who are infected but asymptomatic. It makes it extremely problematic to do efficient contact tracing because most of the people who are infected don’t even know they’re infected.”Anthony Fauci
Staying open also depends on the success of contact tracing. This centuries-old practice is key to reducing community spread. Fauci notes that Covid-19 has proven hard to trace due to the high number of people who are infected but exhibit no symptoms. In some communities, 20 to 40 percent of the population is considered asymptomatic. Contact tracing is also more difficult because of mistrust in authorities. For instance, undocumented migrants worry that the information they give might be used against them.
To combat misinformation and disinformation campaigns spread largely through social media, Fauci says we need to recruit well-known, trusted members of communities to help people understand that vaccines are safe and effective.
Big IdeaThey may not like a government person in a suit like me telling them, even though I will tell them. They really need to see people who they can relate to and people in the larger community like sports figures, community heroes — people who they look up to.Anthony Fauci
Fauci is alarmed by the anti-science, anti-vaccine sentiment in the country. According to recent polls, about one-third of Americans say they won’t get the vaccine even if it is free and accessible. If this turns out to be true, he says we would not achieve herd immunity.
Big IdeaThis isn’t a competition to win a game. This is a lot of different groups from different countries trying to develop a vaccine that will be safe and effective.Anthony Fauci
Fauci says he is encouraged by the current vaccines in clinical trials and not worried about whether another country develops a successful version before the United States. Countries under the umbrella of the World Health Organization are in constant contact regarding a plan to share a vaccine. Fauci is not concerned about who gets there first.