Chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on KNX In Depth to discuss the pandemic, vaccinations, and more. How can you stay safe?
1. Vaccinations and Boosters Save Lives
“[It’s] understandable that everyone is exhausted by what we have been through over the past two and a half years since February of 2020, but if you look at the statistics, they are really very, very clear about the issue concerning the risk of advancing to severe consequences, leading to hospitalization,” Dr. Fauci warns. “And in some cases, death. Now, obviously this is very heavily weighted towards the unvaccinated, towards people who have underlying conditions towards the elderly, but you will see that there are enough people, not an overwhelming number, but enough people who don’t fall into those categories, that if they don’t get in a vaccinated that don’t get boosted, they’re gonna get into trouble.”
2. Vaccines Prevent Virus Mutation
“Don’t give this virus such ample opportunity to freely circulate,” says Dr. Fauci. “And when you do that, the virus has more of an opportunity to mutate. And when you give it an opportunity to mutate, that’s when you get new variants, that’s one reason why you’re right people say, well, the risk to me is low, so why get it? It is about you as an individual, but it’s also about the communal responsibility to get this outbreak under the control, as well as the fact that there are still some significant unknowns about what we’re calling long COVID, and people who get infected, who may not necessarily wind up in the hospital, and certainly may not necessarily die, who get enough symptomatology or enough of a interaction of that virus with their system, that they do get prolongation of symptoms.”
3. The Virus Is Still Dangerous
“You don’t want COVID to dominate the lives of people in this country or throughout the world, but you don’t want to—by wishing it’s behind us, and it’s in the rear view mirror—to not do things that would be prudent,” says Dr. Fauci. “And we’re not talking about locking down, and we’re not talking about mandating things—we’re just talking about common sense, getting the appropriate interventions when they are available to you. And right now we have boosters that are very effective in diminishing any aspect of the infection, but still a virus like BA.5, which is the most prevalent circulating virus, is so transmissible that it often breaks through the protection of vaccines. But the vaccines and the boosters still do a very good job of preventing you from progressing to severe disease.”
4. Immunity from Vaccines and Previous Infection Wanes
“If this were not mRNA, it would take years to make a change,” says Dr. Fauci. “Literally, if you look at the history of vaccinology, the problem is that this virus is doing something—unfortunately for us, as a civilization—it’s doing something that we’ve never seen any other virus do, to continue to evolve with new variants, that evade the prior immune response and the durability of the response, whether you are infected, or whether you are vaccinated and boosted. The durability of protection against infection is measured in a matter of several months, as opposed to with measles, where the durability is measured in decades, if not a lifetime. Polio: The durability of protection against reinfection, once you’ve been infected or vaccinated, is measured in decades and not in several months, that’s something we’ve never had to deal with.”
5. Should There Be a Mask Mandate In California?
“I’ve been in contact over the last two years with the health authorities in California, particularly in Los Angeles,” says Dr. Fauci. “One of the issues is that if you ‘mandate’, [it] has almost a radioactive aspect to it. You say ‘mandate’ and people understandably push back thinking you’re encroaching upon their ability to make their own decisions about themselves, but by not mandating doesn’t mean that you don’t strongly recommend that people do wear a mask. And what the health officials in LA were saying is that the hospital system is not as stressed as it was back at the time when there were mandates. So although we’re not backing off at all on saying, we strongly recommend you wear a mask, they’re not resorting to a mandate. I believe that’s what they’re saying.”
6. How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others.