Dr. Anthony Fauci urged the public to get vaccinated and said if the “overwhelming majority” of the population does so the US could have the pandemic “under control” by spring of 2022.
“We hope we’ll be there … but there’s no guarantee because it’s up to us,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the President’s chief medical adviser, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Monday. It isn’t yet clear to health experts what proportion of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach a level of protection that could sustain a return to normalcy, like safely going to restaurants and theaters, Fauci said. So the best way forward is to vaccinate as many people as possible, he said.
About 51.5% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Monday, the US Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for people 16 and older, a move that Fauci said could convince a significant portion of hesitant Americans to get vaccinated. Still, Fauci’s spring 2022 timeline is daunting politically for President Joe Biden, who already declared partial victory over the virus on July 4. In addition, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta questioned the definition of what it means to “control” a virus that looks to be here for the long haul.
“This is one of those situations where I think defining what it means to be in control of the pandemic is really important,” Gupta said Tuesday. “If we have more people vaccinated, it’s likely we will decouple hospitalizations from cases, and maybe that will be a definition of control. (If) people aren’t getting that sick anymore, ending up in the hospital, the virus starts to slowly not have places to circulate, that will be a definition of control. I think we’re going to see waves of this for some time,” he added. However defined, Covid-19 is certainly not under control now. Hospitals in many states with lower vaccination rates are overwhelmed by a surge in patients, students are returning to the classroom only to have to isolate due to exposure and cases among children are on the rise.
But some experts are skeptical that vaccination rates will go up just because of the approval. “I do think there will be a modest increase, but, look, we have a long way to go to fill this gap,” said Dr Peter Hotez, vaccinologist and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “I think having the full approval will certainly convince some, but it’s just one of a dozen fake talking points put out there by the disinformation campaign. And, I think a number of people are just going to revert to one of the other ones.”