Doha, 18 Nov. 2020
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, and also a world-renowned HIV/AIDS researcher, spoke at virtual WISH 2020 in a special interview with The BMJ’s Editor in Chief, Fiona Godlee.
He said that he believes the pandemic will end with an effective and safe vaccine that ultimately will be widely distributed throughout the world. But that is going to happen together with public health measures.
He said that he does not think it’s going to be like measles where it’s 98% effective even though it’s a highly transmissible virus. But you have got to [roll out] the vaccine together with public health measures until the overall protection umbrella of protection essentially is all over the world. It’s probably going to take a year or two to happen.”
In comparing the pandemic to the HIV/AIDs epidemic outbreak in the 1980s, he said: “Whenever you have pressure, you’ve got to make sure you act in a very measured way based on evidence and science, but at the same time being sensitive to the needs of people.
Turning to the vaccine, he said: “A lot of things are politicized but I think people across the world and in the US should realize that there are a lot of fail safe checks. We have assurances from the FDA commissioner that science itself and not political considerations will dictate the decisions about the regulatory components of the vaccine trial.”
Dr. Faucia talking on racial disparities in health said that: “It’s a very unfortunate situation not only with COVID-19 but with other diseases. African Americans are about 13% of the US population but [account for]over 40-45% of new cases. This population is also hit doubly hit. The jobs they do as a broad demographic group puts them on the front line of interacting with people, so they have a greater chance to get infected to begin with. It is also clear that African Americans have a disparately larger percentage of the underlying conditions that lead to a serious outcome, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity.
“It’s the result of decades and decades of those social determinants of health. If there’s ever a silver lining, it is that it may be jolt us into realizing that we have to correct those disparities.”
Commenting on ‘long COVID’, he said: “We’re starting to see emerging information…That’s why we need to take this disease with a degree of humility and commit to preventing infection, through universal wearing of masks, avoiding crowds, distance, outdoor-better-than-indoor, washing hands, and doing everything we can to get a vaccine … because it is not to be takenin a trivial way at all.”
WISH, an initiative of Qatar Foundation, is dedicated to capturing and disseminating the best evidence-based ideas and practices with a mission to create a healthier world through global collaboration.Virtual WISH 2020 is featuring more than 100 sessions and 300 global speakers to discuss evidence-based content and innovations addressing some of the world’s most pressing health challenges.
WISH 2020 continues until November 19, and is open for registration at www.wish.org.qa