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Fauci Just Said This One Thing Could Stop a 'Catastrophe'

The infectious disease expert made some 'cautiously optimistic' predictions based on the latest data.

Today Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the White House coronavirus response team, got specific about the latest developments to find a coronavirus vaccine in an online Q&A with Brown University. He spoke about why he thinks a vaccine is possible, how soon we could know it works, and who might be eligible to get the first doses. Here's what he revealed. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


Why He Believes a Vaccine Can Be Developed

Vaccine and syringe injection It use for prevention, immunization and treatment from COVID-19

Fauci was asked why he was optimistic about developing a vaccine for coronavirus when a vaccine for HIV hasn't been developed 40 years since that virus emerged. Attempts at a vaccine for HIV and a vaccine for coronavirus are "really very, very different," said Fauci.

"When you have a disease in which the body's natural response to infection is inadequate, then it very difficult for you to get a vaccine. And we know from the 39 years that I've been taking care of AIDS patients, the body does not make a naturally good immune response against HIV."

With coronavirus, "we know that the body is capable of making a good response," he added. "And the reason we know is because we have so many people who clear the virus and do well. So the goal of a vaccine is to do as well, or hopefully better, than natural infection—introducing a good response."


Why He's Not Confident, But 'Cautiously Optimistic,' a Vaccine Can Work

woman scientist in white labcoat holding syringe needle and brown bottle

"I've been developing vaccines now as director of the Institute for 36 years," said Fauci. "You should never feel confident when you're dealing with something that requires a randomized placebo-controlled trial to prove it. What I'm confident in is data. I'm not confident in guessing or surmising. But having said that, the reason I do feel cautiously optimistic is that when you look at the early response—both in the animal data, but importantly in the human phase one [trial]— it induces a response with neutralizing antibodies that's at least as good, if not better, than the plasma of convalescent people, which tells me that's a good start."


How Soon We'll Know If a Vaccine Works

science, chemistry, biology, medicine and people concept - close up of scientist with test sample making research in clinical laboratory

"My personal opinion, with no guarantee, is that we'll probably have an answer sometime in November or December," said Fauci. "I hope that answer is that it's safe and effective, but I can't guarantee it. You only can rely on my cautious optimism."


Who Will Get the Vaccine First

Nurse administering vaccination to students arms in a high school.

Fauci said the National Academy of Medicine is working on guidelines for who will be eligible to get a potential vaccine first. "I don't know what they're going to be, but if it's like we usually do, you'll prioritize healthcare workers, frontline people, those who need it the most—the elderly, those with underlying conditions," he said.


How to Avoid a 'Catastrophe' This Fall and Winter

Woman Washing her hands with soap and water at home bathroom

Fauci reiterated what he called the "fundamental principles" of coronavirus prevention—"universal wearing of a mask, physical distancing, avoid crowds, outdoor is better than indoors, wash your hands," he said. "Stay away from bars—bars are bad news when it comes to the spread. I'm just going to repeat it again 'til I'm exhausted—those things work."

He added: "I believe strongly, and I'll say very clearly, that we do not have to completely lock down if we do things right. I believe we can open up the economy, get the employment back, get people out of the doldrums of being locked down. If we do it prudently, carefully and the way the guidelines say."

"Anybody who says we're not living in a divisive era in our country is not paying attention to what's going on in our country," Fauci continued. "So what happened… instead of saying, 'Let's utilize the public health principles as a vehicle to opening up the country,' it was as if there's public health principles, and then there's 'open up the country,' and they're not synergistic with each other."

"We really need to get that point across that one is not the enemy of the—one is a gateway to get to the other," said Fauci. "I call myself a realist. But I'm a cautious optimist too. And I think that if we can somehow get the country unified to do that together, I don't think we need to go into the fall and the winter thinking we're going to have a catastrophe. We could go into the fall and the winter looking good if we do certain things."

As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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