Fauci Rejects Possible Vaccine Arbitrage Between Three Choices
Anthony Fauci pushed back against any tendency to shop around or wait for a preferred coronavirus vaccine among the three that are now approved for use in the U.S.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was asked on ABC’s “This Week” about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which got the go-ahead on Saturday from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The one-dose J&J shot was found to be highly effective at preventing severe Covid-19, but has a lower efficacy rate than the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc. vaccines, raising concerns that some people may opt to wait rather than being vaccinated with it.
“We’ve got to get away from that chain of thought,” Fauci said on ABC. “The only way you really know the difference between vaccines is by comparing them head to head.”
Availability of the J&J shot is expected to accelerate the number of people fully protected from Covid-19 once the company ramps up production later this spring.
The vaccine is expected to be easier to distribute and administer than two cleared by the FDA in December. It can be stored in a refrigerator for long periods, while the others must be kept at far colder temperatures.
Vaccine Tracker: More than 236 million shots given worldwide
“You now have three highly efficacious vaccines, for sure,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “If I would go to a place where they had J&J, I would have no hesitancy whatsoever to take it.”
“The efficacy against severe disease greater than 85%, and there have been no hospitalization or deaths in multiple countries, even in countries that have the variants,” Fauci said of the Johnson & Johnson shot. “Be careful when you try to parse this percent versus that.”
Fauci said the baseline level of coronavirus cases needs to fall further before the U.S. can confidently resume normal activities -- or suggest that herd immunity is at hand -- even as the vaccine rollout accelerates.
“We’ve seen what happens when you pull back prematurely,” Fauci said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We will be” victorious over the coronavirus, “but we’re not there yet.”
Even though cases have plunged from 300,000 a day to about 70,000, “that baseline’s too high,” Fauci said on NBC. “The thing you don’t want is to have a plateauing.”
The country added 75,194 new cases on Friday, compared with the weekly average of almost 69,000.
Fauci was asked on CBS about an incident at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida this weekend, where South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem got wild applause for her criticism of him.
“I don’t know if you agree with me, but Dr. Fauci is wrong a lot,” Noem said on Saturday.
“I’m sure you can get a standing ovation by saying I’m wrong,” Fauci said. “Just take a look at the numbers. They don’t lie.”
On Monday, the U.S. passed the milestone of 500,000 deaths to Covid-19; that number is now above 512,000. The nation’s first death from the virus was announced during the CPAC meeting a year ago.
Scott Gottlieb, former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said there’s “more and more” evidence that vaccines are preventing Covid transmission as well as stopping those who’ve had the shots from becoming sick. That “makes them an even more important public health tool,” he said on “Face the Nation.”
While the U.S. vaccine rollout has accelerated and is poised to do so further, health officials are worried that states will move too quickly in lifting restrictions, even as more contagious variants are gaining ground.
California this month resumed outdoor high school sporting events, including football games, for first time in a year; and New York City resumed indoor dining on Feb. 12. Several states have eased mask mandates.
“We understand the need and the desire, understandably, to want to just pull back because things are going in the right direction,” Fauci said.
“But you’ve got to get that baseline down lower than it is now, particularly in light of the fact that we have some worrisome variants that are in places like California and New York and others that we’re keeping our eye on.”
Of all the mutant Covid strains floating around, Gottlieb said only one seems to be gaining strength.
“That represents about 5% of infections in New York. So we’re more worried about the New York strain because it may pierce prior immunity, and vaccines may be less effective,” he said.
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