WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — As the U.S. continues to set records for new coronavirus cases, with total infections now topping 11 million since the pandemic began and hospitalizations surging, more Americans are looking for answers on how to best deal with the pandemic.
NewsNation Washington Correspondent Joe Khalil spoke one-on-one with the nation’s top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci about the unprecedented development of coronavirus vaccines, why he’s giving the Trump administration credit in that effort and what’s next to come.
JOE: “Dr. Fauci, I want to start off with Operation Warp Speed. It’s been unprecedented how quickly Moderna and Pfizer have been able to get to this point, with two vaccines. Could you talk about how all parties were able to manage this without sacrificing safety?”
DR. FAUCI: “Well it’s important to understand the speed with which this occurred, as you’re alluding to, was not compromising safety whatsoever, nor compromising scientific integrity…And what the public needs to know, the risk was not to people. It was to money. So if the vaccine worked, you’ve saved months. If the vaccine doesn’t work, you’ve lost a lot of money. Fortunately for us, and for Warp Speed, both vaccines were extraordinarily efficacious.”
JOE: “Why might it still take months before any of these vaccines are available to the general public?”
DR. FAUCI: “Well because when you have the availability of doses, they’re coming in in a rolling fashion. Like at the end of December, we will have 25 of Pfizer and 15 million for Moderna, 40 million doses for 20 million people…Now by the time you get to middle or end of the 2nd quarter, namely April, May June, July, the people in the general public will be able to get vaccinated.”
JOE: “In between now and then, what’s your projection for how many people might get sick or even die?”
DR. FAUCI: “Well that’s going to depend on what we do vis-à-vis public health intervention. So that is within our own hands, and within our own power. So we can never ever forget wearing masks, keeping physical distance, avoiding crowds and congregate settings, particularly indoor. Doing things outdoors preferentially instead of indoors, washing your hands. They seem very simple, those are the things that prevent the surges that we’re seeing now.”
JOE: “How much credit does the Trump administration get for Operation Warp Speed?”
DR. FAUCI: “Oh, I think they get considerable credit. I think you have to call it the way it is. This was something that was put together, you know a combination of leadership from the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Defense. Definitely, they should get credit for that.”
JOE: “You’re likely going to be continuing your work in the next administration, how complicated is it to go from one administration to the next in the middle of this pandemic? You have to transfer the work, everything else you’re doing. Is that a complicated task?
DR. FAUCI: “Well it depends if you have a transition process. And that’s the thing, you know, I’ve been around for quite a while. I’ve served six administrations, I’ve been involved in five transitions. And when you have a transition as I’ve often described it’s like a smooth relay race where you have the person with the baton running, the person who’s going to get the baton is also running. You don’t run, stop, give it to somebody, then stop and then go. So the complication is going to be dependent on whether or not you have a transition.”
JOE: “So are you a little concerned now, because there is no transition at this point?”
DR. FAUCI: “Yes, I would prefer that there be a transition process so that we can hand over to the people that will be coming in the kinds of information, you know there’s nothing like experience, and we really want to share the experience with them.”
JOE: “A President Biden is going to listen to you, he has said as much. While many people are concerned now about an uptick in cases, rising death numbers, people are also concerned about a shutdown. What would it take for you to recommend a nationwide shutdown?”
DR. FAUCI: “It would take a complete failure and a lack of adherence to the kinds of public health measures I’m talking about. And that’s why I keep saying we do not need to shut down this country. We can do mitigation and still keep the economy going in a direction which is up. This is a very difficult period from a public health standpoint. But when I talk about public health mitigation methods, I’m not talking about a complete shutdown of the government.”
JOE: “Dr. Fauci I’m told we only have one more question, this is our final one so I will just wrap up with you’ve told families across the country that this holiday season has to be a little different. In the Fauci household, how do you all prepare your turkey? What is the meal spread going to look like on Thanksgiving?”
DR. FAUCI: “Well since it’s going to be just my wife and I, it’s going to be a really small turkey. I’ll tell you that. Probably the same thing that we’ve done every year. No, my daughters, as I’ve said publicly, are not going to come in because of their concern about me and my age actually, that I’m in a higher risk group. So they’ve decided we’re going to Zoom together. We’re going to talk, and share a glass of wine, and eat and talk about it together, but this time we’re just going to forestall it and look forward to next year.”