Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert who has guided the U.S. through the pandemic, projected Americans could expect their first doses of an approved coronavirus vaccine as early as April.
Front-line health care workers are expected to get their first doses by the end of December or early January. After prioritizing people at risk of infection or severe disease, the healthy general population can expect first doses of a vaccine starting in April and through July if all continues on track, Fauci told the USA TODAY Editorial Board on Wednesday.
If most of the population is vaccinated by summer and fall, Fauci said, people can start looking forward to returning to pre-pandemic normalcy.
“Then you can start talking about this umbrella or blanket of protection on society that would diminish dramatically the risk of a person being exposed or even being infected,” he said. “When so many people are protected, that’s when you get into the real herd immunity.”
But to get there, vaccine hesitancy must be addressed, he said, particularly among people of color who have a historic distrust of the nation's medical system.
Polls show that among racial and ethnic groups, Black Americans are the most hesitant to get a vaccine once one becomes available, and their skepticism is rising fast. In one September survey, only 32% of Black adults said they would get a vaccine, down from 54% in May.
That's why Moderna, the company developing a COVID-19 vaccine with the federal government, made a concerted effort to include minority representation in clinical trials, Fauci said.
“We said that we want representation in the elderly, white, brown, Black, people with underlying conditions, so that we can get a feel if it’s effective across the board,” he said, and not just a "white man's vaccine."
Outreach by trusted community leaders also is key, Fauci said.
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Fauci also stressed candidate vaccine data is reviewed by outside, independent advisory boards made up of career scientists, who then present objective findings to the Food and Drug Administration, which authorizes a vaccine's use. Afterward, the data will be published for anyone to review.
Fauci emphasized the importance of transparency, consistency and effectively communicating that developing a COVID-19 vaccine is governed by independent science and data not outside forces.
“I understand because of a lot of that noise that comes out of Washington that some of these governors or mayors ... have concern about the process,” he said, referring to states that have created committees to vet a vaccine as an extra layer of scrutiny.
“When it gets approved by the FDA … I would take the vaccine and I would recommend that my family take the vaccine.”
Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fauci: COVID vaccine may be available in April, says he would take it