More uniform government responses to COVID-19 may have helped limit the pandemic’s reach in the United States, infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said Tuesday afternoon during a live recording.
As part of the 2020 Texas Tribune Festival, Fauci discussed the details of COVID-19 and its initial spread across the U.S. and shared the news that COVID-19 vaccines could become available as soon as November or December of 2020.
“I feel cautiously optimistic, as a scientist, that we will have an effective vaccine,” Fauci said. “There’s never a guarantee, but I believe it will happen, and it will happen likely by the end of this calendar year. There are already doses that are being made so we can vaccinate people in an expeditious manner.”
Fauci said five vaccines are currently in an advanced testing stage, though government responses at the start of the pandemic were not adequate for the way COVID-19 transmits.
“(The U.S.) got hit and has been hit very badly now with 200,000 deaths and about 7 million infections in the United States, certainly disproportionately,” Fauci said. “The pandemic preparedness that we had done prior to this, for which we were given accolades for as a country, were really based on an influenza model. Namely, a model of a disease in which … people transmit the infection to each other when, generally, they either are just about to get symptoms or already have symptoms.”
Fauci said when COVID-19 hit in the U.S., there were so many parts of the pandemic that experts did not understand, and the country took some missteps at the beginning.
“I think you have to be honest and transparent that we had a testing issue in the beginning when the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) test was not really working well, and that set us back,” Fauci said. “We had a situation where we got seeded in the country with cases traveling from China, even though shutting off the travel from China was very helpful in blunting the full effect of that transmission from China to the United States.”
Fauci said although some states are doing well, the differences between the responses from U.S. officials and individual states have worked against everyone.
“(Actions) like making recommendations for shutting down and then for opening up again — these were not uniformly implemented by the states,” Fauci said. “It’s not an excuse. It’s just an explanation of how we now, today, still have 40,000 new infections per day and anywhere between 600 and 1,000 deaths.”
In regard to COVID-19 vaccines, Fauci said mixed messages have come out of Washington, and people now do not want to believe anything.
“(Messages out of Washington) have questioned the credibility of the (Food and Drug Administration), the CDC and the credibility of virtually anything that comes out of Washington,” Fauci said. “If you put aside those unfortunate mixed and deleterious messages, the American public should feel confident that the process of developing and ultimately testing and proving … the safety and efficiency of vaccines … is a very good process.”