Dr. Anthony Fauci said coronavirus vaccines could be as successful against the deadly bug as polio jabs were against the paralyzing disease in the 1950s — but urged people who still think COVID-19 is a hoax to get on board, according to a report.
The nation’s top infectious diseases expert predicted that the vaccines will allow workers to return to offices and restaurants in the second half of 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“There are a substantial proportion of people who do think this is not real, that it’s fake news, or it’s a hoax. This is extraordinary. I’ve never seen this before,” Fauci said Tuesday at the Journal’s CEO Council Summit.
Fauci, who will serve as the country’s chief medical officer in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, said he would tell the White House: “We have all got to be on the same page telling the American public we have to pull together. That, to me, is the most important thing.”
The top doc said that among the hurdles that need to be overcome are people’s hesitancy to get the shot and a spike in cases fueled in part by misinformation about the bug.
Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, both reiterated their calls for people to adopt public health measures.
“We have to go head-to-head with the misunderstandings people have with this virus,” Birx said at the summit, adding that she didn’t know what role she’ll have in the new administration but that she will remain in the federal government.
Fauci said health care workers and nursing home residents will receive the first vaccinations, followed by various priority levels that are likely to include seniors, people with underlying conditions and workers with critical jobs, such as teachers.
Younger people and those with no underlying health conditions will likely be able to get the jab by the end of March or beginning of April if the inoculation program runs efficiently, Fauci said.
With about 75 percent of the population vaccinated, there should be low levels of circulating virus and a return to workplaces, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“I don’t think we’re going to eradicate [COVID-19] the way we did with smallpox, but I think we can do what we did with polio,” said Fauci, who added that the stringency of public health measures will gradually subside.
The Food and Drug Administration could soon give the green light for vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.
On Tuesday, the agency concluded that the first vaccine being considered for US distribution “met the prescribed success criteria” in a clinical study, according to the Journal.
As of Wednesday morning, more than 15 million cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in the US, with 286,338 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.