Story at a glance
- Anthony Fauci warns that without public cooperation, the United States won’t be able to achieve herd immunity to the coronavirus.
- Recent surveys show that some Americans are hesitant to be vaccinated once a vaccine becomes available.
- The concerns are reflected in growing case counts in some states across the country.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Anthony Fauci has become revered as the nation’s top public health expert. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force — has become a household figure. He even has a bobblehead and a cocktail named in his honor.
But as much as Americans seem to respect Fauci, some of them still aren’t willing to listen to what he has to say.
"There is a general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling among some people in this country — an alarmingly large percentage of people, relatively speaking," Fauci said in an interview with CNN.
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In a poll earlier this month, about a third of Americans said they probably or definitely won't get a coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available. And if that’s the case, Fauci said it is unlikely that the United States will be able to achieve herd immunity — which means that a large enough portion of the population is immune to an infectious disease to prevent community spread. This type of immunity is especially vital for vulnerable populations who may themselves be unable to get vaccinated due to their health condition.
Another factor is the effectiveness of potential coronavirus vaccines, three of which are now entering large-scale clinical trials.
"The best we've ever done is measles, which is 97 to 98 percent effective," Fauci told CNN. "That would be wonderful if we get there. I don't think we will. I would settle for [a] 70, 75 percent effective vaccine."
The less effective the vaccine, the more people who will need to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity. Fauci said the government has a vaccine education program in place, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has not confirmed such a program.
Another weapon in the prevention of COVID-19 spread is contact tracing, which involves identifying those who have been in contact with infectious people and quarantining them. But Fauci said the United States is not doing well, especially because between 20 and 40 percent of infected people in communities where the virus is spreading are asymptomatic.
"When you have community spread, it's insidious because there are so many people in the community who are infected but asymptomatic," he told CNN. "So the standard classic paradigm of identification, isolation, contact tracing doesn't work no matter how good you are because you don't know who you're tracing."
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