The following is a transcript of an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, that aired Sunday, April 18, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to the president’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Good morning to you, Dr..
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Good morning, MARGARET.
MARGARET BRENNAN: At this point, nearly 40% of Americans have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine. When will the infection rate come down?
DR. FAUCI: You know, I think it’s going to come down soon if we do two things, one that I’m sure will be able to do is to continue the really very fine rate of vaccination where we’re vaccinating between three and four million people per day. But the other wild card in this is to be making sure that until we get to that point, we don’t pull back on public health measures because we’re having between 60 and 70,000 new infections per day. And it would really, I thin- think, not be prudent at all to declare victory prematurely and pull back. Without a doubt, as we continue every single day to get more and more people vaccinated, that rate will go down if we don’t give the virus the opportunity to essentially surge. And by giving the virus the opportunity, I mean, just pulling back on public health measures, if we do those two things simultaneously, continue to vaccinate at the same time as we just hang in there a bit longer, I believe we will be OK. We will reach the point where we will be able to get back to doing things the way we did before. But we’re going to have to make sure that we get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But right now, about 5% of US vaccine supply is sidelined because of this pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Can you explain here? I mean, what we have seen in public reporting is that it’s six women between the ages of 18 to 45 who developed clots in their brain within two weeks of receiving the vaccine. Have there been any further cases? And will the restrictions be lifted this week?
DR. FAUCI: Well, I don’t know if there have been through the cases, but we will know that by Friday, and I would be very surprised, MARGARET, if we don’t have a resumption in some form by Friday. A decision almost certainly will be made by Friday. I don’t really anticipate that they’re going to want to stretch it out a bit longer, in one way or the other, make a decision about J&J. I don’t know what that’s going to be, but thinking about what the possibilities are, one of the possibilities would be to bring them back, but to do it with some form of restriction or some form of warning. But I believe by Friday we’re going to know the answer to that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You told CBS this week that one of the things that you think needs to be investigated is the role of hormones here. Looking at the fact that these women are of childbearing age, you wanted to look at whether they were on birth control. Does that indicate that the restrictions could be gender-based?
DR. FAUCI: Well, it could be, MARGARET, but we have to be careful about that because we now have only seen six people. Something that’s similar and certainly in this mechanism and what we’ve seen with AZ, AstraZeneca, in the European Union and in the U.K. has the same sort of thrombotic phenomenon, namely a clot together with low platelets. That’s a very unusual situation to see that. And yet under those circumstances where they’ve seen many more with that different vaccine, it has not only been restricted to women. And that’s one of the points we want to be careful. So you don’t want to jump ahead of yourself and decide you know the total spectrum of this, which is one of the reasons why they paused and why hopefully by Friday we’ll know that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as I understand it, as a layperson, it’s an inactivated cold virus injected into someone. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccine, these mRNA vaccines are a very different kind of vaccine. When you were on this program in February, I asked you whether Johnson & Johnson was an inferior vaccine. You said, “No. No, it is not. You can’t say that.” Do you still believe that?
DR. FAUCI: Yeah, from a standpoint of efficacy, no doubt we’re dealing with three highly efficacious vaccines. The issue of safety now is being examined. And as we mentioned just a moment ago, we’ll know a lot more about that by Friday. But the one thing we should emphasize when you’re dealing with safety, people should not extrapolate a pause with one vaccine to the other vaccines. For example, the same surveillance system that picked up the six women in the J&J was the same surveillance system that the CDC and the FDA uses with the Moderna product and with the Pfizer product. And thus far, there have been no red flags of that, even though, you know, tens and tens and tens of millions of people have been vaccinated with those vaccines. So one of the things you can take away from all of this is that when the surveillance system, the CDC and the FDA say that something is safe, you can be sure that it’s safe.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The CDC director was on this program in February and said at that time that there were other vaccines being looked at either to deal with different strains, as she put it, or booster vaccines. Do we know net- yet which one’s needed? And when should Americans expect to have to go out and get a booster?
DR. FAUCI: You know, we’re going to find that out soon, MARGARET, because you determine whether a booster is needed to the particular virus that you’re dealing with, like the standard virus, if you get a level of immunity, which is measured generally by antibodies, it’s a correlate of immunity, when that level starts to fade down to a certain critical level, then it’s a good indication you’ll need a boost. Or if you start to see breakthrough infections, either with the original virus or with a variant, and if it’s with the variant, even though a person’s vaccinated, you might want to boost with a variant-specific boost as opposed to just a boost to the regular. So we’ll know sometime, I believe, by the end of the summer, by the beginning of the fall, likely by the end of the summer. Whether or not we’re going to have to boost people with an additional shot, be it an additional shot against the original virus or perhaps- perhaps an- a vaccination against something that’s very specific to whatever variant you’re worried about.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the point of variants, right, one of the concerns is the virus swirling outside US borders. According to the World Health Organization, we are approaching the highest rate of infection that we have seen so far during this pandemic. So even with these good headlines in America, the rest of the world is still really struggling. What’s the bottom line from that? Does this mean–
DR. FAUCI: Sure.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –Americans just shouldn’t go abroad?
DR. FAUCI: No. No. No, that- that- it means that when you have a global pandemic, MARGARET, you have to have a global response. And that’s the reason why we’ve got to make sure that we participate, which we are doing, in COVAX, which is the organization that is of states of organizations, to try and make sure that we get vaccines to those countries, mostly low and middle income countries, that don’t have the opportunity or the resources to get it. We’ve got to respond globally. We’ve got to be part of the global response. Otherwise, even when we have a pretty good control of things and we’re doing good right here, what’s going to happen is that there’s always the threat that one of those variants that almost certainly will evolve if you have a lot of viral dynamics elsewhere, that sooner or later it will get to this country. So we’ve got to look at this both domestically and globally.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Dr. Fauci, thank you for your time this morning.
DR. FAUCI: Good to be with you, MARGARET. Thank you for having me.
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