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Dr. Anthony Fauci walked back his prediction Monday that it will take the United States more than one year to get control of COVID-19.
During an appearance on CNN, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser offered an apology and said he meant to say the goal is actually within reach sooner — the spring of 2022 instead of the fall of next year as he said earlier in the day — but only if people holding out on getting vaccinated decide to get the jab.
"No, Anderson, I have to apologize," he told anchor Anderson Cooper. "When I listened to the tape, I meant to say the spring of 2022, so I did misspeak. And in the conversation with Mary Louise Kelly, she was saying, when do I think we can get some control? I said if we can get through this winter and get really the overwhelming majority of the 90 million people who have not been vaccinated, vaccinated, I hope we could start to get some good control in the spring of 2022. I didn't mean the fall. I misspoke, my bad."
Earlier, on NPR, Fauci made the comment about the fall of 2022. He said it was contingent on widespread vaccinations, a contentious issue lingering more than eight months after the jabs became available to the public, as the more contagious delta variant causes a new spike in cases and health officials push for booster shots.
"If all things go the way we want them to go," Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, began in a quote aired on CNN, "and we get really the overwhelming majority of people vaccinated. I think as we get into the fall and winter, we could start to really get some good control over this as we get back into the fall of 2022."
In answering Cooper's follow-up question about what he meant by getting "control" of the virus, Fauci said it translated to a "degree of overall blanket protection of the community" that could see a return to "a degree of normality, namely reassuming the things that we were hoping we could do. Restaurants, theaters, that kind of thing."
When pressed, Fauci did not define what percentage of the population would have to get vaccinated to get the pandemic under control.
"In all transparency and honesty, we don't know that because we have not been to the point where we got there, then fell below and then see the virus come back," he said.
He also warned of more variants, saying, "Lingering without getting those people vaccinated should be vaccinated" could lead to complications that disrupt his predicted timeline to normalcy.
The Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, a move the Biden administration hopes will convince holdouts to get the shots. Moderna, whose vaccine relies on the same mRNA technology as the one developed by Pfizer, filed its application for full approval in June, and it is expected to be granted this fall.
Pfizer and Moderna are testing the vaccines in young children, with clinical trial data expected to be submitted to the FDA in the fall. Right now, there is no COVID-19 vaccine available for children 12 and under.
More than 171 million people have been fully vaccinated in the U.S., which is 51.5% of the population, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 201 million, or roughly 60.8% of the population, have received at least one dose.
In recent weeks, there has been renewed debate about restrictions meant to stem the spread of the virus, and schools are grappling with whether to require face coverings in schools as students return to class. Roughly 6 in 10 people in the U.S. say they support students and teachers should be required to wear masks while in K-12 schools, and similar numbers were reported for vaccine mandates among those eligible, according to a poll from the Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reported on Monday.
The CDC said the vaccines are key to controlling the coronavirus pandemic and stressed that infections among fully vaccinated people, called breakthrough cases, are expected.
"COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control. However, no vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness in vaccinated people. There will be a small percentage of fully vaccinated people who still get sick, are hospitalized, or die from COVID-19," the CDC states on its website.
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Original Author: Daniel Chaitin