'The cavalry is on the way': Fauci says Americans should 'double down' on COVID-19 precautions as we reach the final stretch before the first vaccines

Isabella Jibilian
·3 min read
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GRAEME JENNINGS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
  • This month, Moderna, BioNTech, and Pfizer all announced that their COVID-19 vaccine candidates had passed phase 3 testing. 

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading expert on COVID-19, said that Americans should take the breakthroughs as more reason to combat "COVID fatigue," at The New York Times DealBook conference Tuesday. 

  • "The cavalry is on the way," Fauci said. 

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that Americans should "double down" on public health measures, since "there is light at the end of the tunnel" with promising developments in the COVID-19 vaccine race.

"We've been fortunate enough that the science has given us at least two and likely more vaccines that are highly effective and safe," said the nation's leading COVID-19 expert in at the New York Times' DealBook Conference on Tuesday. "There is light at the end of the tunnel." 

Over the past two weeks, Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna released promising results from the phase 3 testing of their COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that a preliminary analysis had found that their vaccine candidate was over 90% effective against the COVID-19 virus. Then, on Monday, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna announced that its vaccine was 94.5% effective against COVID-19. Two days later, Pfizer and BioNTech announced updated results from their trial, which found that their vaccine was 95% effective against the COVID-19 virus. 

While these vaccine trials have given many reason for hope, case numbers and deaths from this week have been more sobering: 166,272 cases per day and an average of about 1,200 deaths per day, according to The New York Times

Read more: Pharmacies, doctor's offices and hospitals are gearing up to give coronavirus vaccines to millions of Americans. Here's how they're preparing and how much they stand to profit along the way.

Fauci warned on Tuesday that across the globe, people were feeling "covid fatigue," that is, that they were becoming tired of social distancing and other public health measures after months of quarantine. 

"I get on the phone with my colleagues in Italy, in the UK," Fauci said, "They're telling us the same thing."

However, Americans should strengthen their efforts to socially distance, especially given promising news in the vaccine sphere, Fauci told the New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin. 

"The cavalry is on the way," Fauci said. "Rather than give up on public health measures, we should say: 'Now that we see the end in sight, now is the time to double down.'" 

Fauci highlighted that as the holidays near, families need to make a risk assessment. Fauci said he and his wife would be holding a small Thanksgiving meal and wishing their daughters a happy Thanksgiving over Zoom, rather than gathering in person. 

"If you have in your family, vulnerable individuals, this particular holiday season, do you really want to take the risk of endangering the life of a loved one?" he said. "My daughters who are adult professional women in different parts of the country have made a decision.... they want to protect their daddy."

The Food and Drug Administration has not approved Moderna's or Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine candidates yet. In addition, the findings of the vaccine trials have not been peer reviewed. But in an important next step, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they were requesting emergency approval from the FDA on Friday. Moderna has yet to file, but will likely do so in the next few days

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