Fauci says ‘herd immunity’ is out of reach, pandemic ‘by no means’ over

WASHINGTON – Dr. Anthony Fauci capped off a week of controversial remarks with a Friday morning appearance at the National Press Club, seeking to provide an overview of where the COVID-19 pandemic currently stands.

It’s been one of those weeks when Fauci’s polarizing presence was often in the news, his attempts to explain the current moment of the coronavirus pandemic dissected and criticized by a bitterly divided public.

On Tuesday, he told “PBS NewsHour” that the… The United States appeared to be “out of the pandemic phase” irritating to some public health experts who found the prediction cavalier. He revised those comments in an interview with the Washington Post the next day, with the nation rated as “in a transitional phase, from a slowing in numbers to hopefully a more controlled phase and endemism.”

dr.  Anthony Fauci.

dr. Anthony Fauci at a Senate hearing on Jan. 11 (Greg Nash/Pool via Reuters)

Fauci also said on Tuesday evening that he would no longer attend the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturdayciting an individual risk assessment, but providing little insight into the factors involved in that decision.

Fauci, who serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, again clarified his view on the pandemic on Friday. “It’s by no means over,” he said. “We are still dealing with a global pandemic.”

After leading the government’s response to the AIDS crisis early in his career and later personally treating Ebola patients, Fauci warned about the future. While the coronavirus is on the decline in highly vaccinated parts of the world, another pandemic is undoubtedly waiting, perhaps in the near future.

“We absolutely need to be constantly prepared for the inevitability of another pandemic,” he said. The Biden administration has asked for billions of dollars to improve surveillance of emerging viruses.

New variants of the coronavirus will also continue to emerge, Fauci said, which frustrated the “herd immunity” goal he and others once held up, as new strains — such as the currently circulating BA.2 subvariant of Omicron — increase the ability have shown to evade immune protection, but without making people sicker than the original coronavirus.

“We’re not getting classic herd immunity” from the coronavirus, Fauci predicted in the press club, a reversal from the seemingly long-ago time when he and others predicted vaccination benchmarks would signal a defeat from the coronavirus.

People walk through Times Square in New York City.

Unlike other parts of Manhattan, Times Square is quickly returning to its pre-pandemic population, with Broadway shows and area hotels often nearly full. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“It’s very hard to get really strong classic herd immunity” — the kind the United States enjoys from polio and measles — “when you have immunity that wanes and a virus that basically doesn’t stay stable,” he said. Friday . “And you have an antivax movement, which prevents a lot of people from getting vaccinated.”

Fauci also spoke the severe lockdowns that China has used to deal with an Omicron outbreak in Shanghai, where tens of millions have lived under a public security regime that has severely curtailed everyday freedoms.

“China has a serious problem,” he said. “They’ve gone into lockdown without necessarily vaccinating their populations enough, so now they’re seeing really substantial increases in major cities. So that is really going to be a problem in China.”

Fauci addressed the question of how the coronavirus affects children and stopped giving his opinion on why they tend to be largely – but not completely – protected from severe cases of COVID-19.

“If I suspect, it’s going to be a sound bite,” he said. “And that’s not good.”

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