Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said Tuesday he doesn’t see the U.S. mandating a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I don’t think you’ll ever see a mandating of vaccine particularly for the general public,” Fauci said during a livestreamed interview with Healthline.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that some workplaces, particularly those in health care fields, might prevent employees from coming to work or interacting with patients if they haven’t been vaccinated for the flu.
Schools generally require students be vaccinated for measles and other infectious diseases before they are allowed to attend classes.
But Fauci said he’d “be pretty surprised if you mandated it for any element of the general public.”
There are several vaccine candidates in clinical trials, and some look promising at providing a level of protection against COVID-19.
While no vaccine has been approved yet by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), experts are already grappling with how to convince the American public to get vaccinated.
Vaccine hesitancy has been a public health issue for several years now, especially among parents of young children, partly due to the rise of misinformation on social media.
Polls have also shown people of color are less likely to want to get vaccinated, which experts say could be explained by distrust of a public health infrastructure that has a history of mistreatment and discrimination.
One of the most famous examples of the mistreatment of people of color in the health care system is the Tuskegee syphilis study, in which African American men were told they were getting free health care from the United States Public Health Service. In actuality, they were infected with syphilis and left untreated.
People of color still face racism in health settings and disparities in access to health care in the U.S.
A Gallup poll released earlier this month found 1 in 3 Americans would not get a COVID-19 vaccine available today if it were free and approved by the FDA.
Sixty-seven percent of white Americans said they would get the vaccine, compared to 59 percent of nonwhite Americans. People who lived in rural areas were less likely to say they would get vaccinated than people who lived in small towns, suburbs or large cities.
Asked what the U.S. could do about people who refuse to get vaccinated, Fauci replied: “They have the right to refuse a vaccine. I don’t think you need a contingency plan. If someone refuses the vaccine in the general public, then there’s nothing you can do about that. You cannot force someone to take a vaccine.”