BioPharma, Policy

Dr Fauci: We won’t be able to crush Covid-19 like smallpox without strong global vaccination

Dr. Fauci stressed that whether humanity can root out the novel coronavirus depends on whether a robust global vaccine campaign can be launched such that cheaper and easily deliverable vaccines can be distributed en masse.

Dr. Anthony Fauci received the 2021 Luminary Award from the Precision Medicine World Congress on Monday.



Vaccine hesitancy and a slow rollout is a stumbling block to getting the U.S. population inoculated against the SARA-CoV2 virus that causes Covid-19. But even if the U.S. upped its game on the vaccination front, whether or not SARS-CoV2 is eventually eliminated depends largely on the world at large.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been unshackled since the departure of Donald Trump from the White House, believes that truly defeating the virus requires the people around the world to embrace vaccines as well. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and has re-established his preeminent position as the government’ss top virus expert after being sidelined as Covid-19 strengthened its grip on the nation. He was speaking Monday at the virtual Precision Medicine World Congress (PMWC) where he was being interviewed by Lee Hood, a prominent American biologist and founder of several biotech companies. Fauci was also receiving the 2021 Luminary Award from the organization.”

In response to a question from Dr. Hood as to whether SARS-CoV2 would be eventually eliminated or whether people, especially seniors, would need to get annual shots like against the cold virus, Fauci responded:

“We figured out — I think this is an estimate, I think it’s correct, I’m not sure — that if we get 70-85% of the country of the United States vaccinated with an anti-Covid-19 vaccine, that we will reach a degree of herd immunity that the virus itself really won’t have any place to go because there will be very few susceptible hosts,” Fauci said. “But you’re not going to crush it, Lee, the way we did with smallpox and the way we did with polio unless you get a multi-year global vaccination campaign going.”

Smallpox was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980. The U.S. has been polio-free since 1979 though some countries still struggle with it.

To achieve the Covid-19 planet-wide vaccination program means more companies need to develop a variety of vaccines. Fauci was specific in terms of what is needed.

“…you’ve got to get many companies involved to make a vaccine that does not have cold chain requirements that you can give cheaply and easily throughout the world,” Fauci said.

That’s where Johnson & Johnson comes in. Unlike the current vaccines being administered, the company is developing a single-shot vaccine that could receive FDA’s emergency use authorization in the next two weeks. [Meanwhile, Merck discontinued its two Covid-19 vaccine program after lower efficacy results than the one developed by Moderna and BioNTech]

But aside from having many companies developing vaccines and material that support a global vaccination program, it will also require a level of unity and collaboration, Fauci stressed.

“What we have to do is that the world has to pull together, he said. “We have to have a commitment of cooperation, collaboration and solidarity, so that everybody in the world has access to vaccines.”

Fauci implied it would be folly to leave countries to their own devices and only have rich countries vaccinated.

“As long as you have the virus circulating in countries with high population and low healthcare and low accessibility to vaccine the virus is going to continue to evolve,” he said.

Fauci added that scientists are currently speculating that the South African variant of the SARS-CoV2 is more contagious could have something to do with that country’s population that has a significant proportion of HIV-positive people.

“If you get somebody [with HIV] infected and they don’t clear the virus as rapidly, and you give the virus an extra few days to replicate in a host that’s not clearing it, the immunological pressure in that host is going to pressure the virus to mutate, so it’s highly conceivable that when you have a highly0suppressed population like you do in South Africa – with people who have immune suppression related to HIV, that could be one of the places where the immune system pressures essentially put pressure on the virus to mutate.”

Photo: Mandel Ngan, Getty Images