We're all in this together. That's the message Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, delivered when he spoke with Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on Sept. 11 about the progress of the fight against coronavirus. And he had hopeful predictions about why science indicates a COVID-19 vaccine can work, along with prescriptions about long-term changes we can make to mitigate future pandemics. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
"We have been living with coronaviruses forever. There were four of them that cause about 15 to 30% of all of the common colds that we repetitively get in the winter," Fauci pointed out. "In 2002, we had the first pandemic coronavirus with SARS, jumped species from a bat to a civet cat to a human — 8000 cases, almost 800 deaths. Ten years later in 2012, we had MERS — the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome — which is still smoldering in Saudi Arabia. Now, in 2019-2020, we have COVID-19." Fauci says that if we want to prevent future outbreaks, an all-encompassing vaccine is crucial. "Somebody is trying to tell us we'd better develop a universal coronavirus vaccine," he continued. "Because we've already in 18 years had three pandemics associated with coronaviruses."
"We need drugs to keep people out of the hospital, and we don't have a lot of those direct antivirals," said Fauci. "One of the things that I was just talking about this morning on our morning daily meeting is the need to get a HIV ART [anti-retroviral] type drug for COVID, which you can give orally for a few days. You don't need to give it the lifetime the way we do with HIV, but you just need it in that window when people are either going to do fine or going to deteriorate and require hospitalizations. So we need to move on that."
"Lucky for us, vaccine efforts in COVID-19 are really based on knowing that the body can and does induce an effective immune response," said Fauci. "The vast majority of people—more than 85%—have either mild to modest disease and the overwhelming amount—more than 90-plus percent—recover completely. So if the body can mount an immune response that recovers completely, I wouldn't say it's easy, but it is highly likely that we are going to get an effective vaccine."
"We have to have globally, literally universal health coverage," said Fauci. "That's really essential." He pointed out that hospitalizations and deaths from COVID are three to five times greater among Black Americans than whites. "The social determinants of health are impacted very, very much by universal health coverage," he said. "You wouldn't have so many of the things that you have in the African-American community with diabetes, obesity, hypertension, chronic lung disease, kidney disease, if you had universal health coverage, you would mitigate that considerably."
"The average person in the United States has really got to get on board with realizing that we live in a global community," said Fauci. "A pandemic by its definition of the word 'pandemic' means it's global. So it's going to affect us, like it or not. But also we really do need to hang on to something that is distinctly part of our society and our culture. I hope we don't lose it. It looks like somehow it's drifting away — that moral responsibility that we have to take a global view when it comes to diseases."
"When you're dealing with a situation that requires behavioral change, we in the United States have a significant issue that I'm very disappointed in," Fauci said. "It was stunning to me … that in some states and cities and counties, you would see television clips of people crowded indoors at bars, which is a superspreading event if you ever saw it." Young people think they can't get sick, "but what they forget is their societal responsibility to not propagate the outbreak because if they get infected, they're likely going to infect someone else who then might infect someone who really is vulnerable and will have a serious severe consequence."
"The one thing that bothers me is the amount of things that aren't evidence-based, and we've seen examples of that in the United States like claims that certain drugs have a great positive effect when there's no scientific evidence whatsoever that they have a positive effect," Fauci said.
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask up, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.