Dr. Anthony Fauci says that if you're delaying a big gathering like a wedding until 2022, "that's quite reasonable."
It may take until late 2021 for every American who wants to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to get their shots.
But Fauci told Insider that, ultimately, it would require efforts beyond a vaccine.
"It's all going to depend on the level of infection in the community," he said, a metric that will depend on how many people around you get vaccinated and how well people have adhered to precautions like social distancing and mask-wearing.
Dr. Anthony Fauci doesn't think getting rid of the novel coronavirus will be easy.
"I don't think we're going to eradicate it," he told Insider during an interview on Wednesday.
Still, he harbors hope that within 18 months the worst of the global virus disaster will be behind us — as long as vaccines are distributed widely and people have been consistently adhering to social distancing, handwashing, and masking measures.
"We may not completely eliminate it, but if you get it down to such a very low level, and enough of the population is protected — either by a vaccine or by previously having been infected — then you'll develop a degree of herd immunity that you won't have an outbreak," he said.
So if you're patiently delaying a wedding, a birthday gathering, or a big vacation until the spring or summer of 2022, the doctor is on your side.
"I think that's quite reasonable," Fauci said. "If we deploy a vaccine and we implement public-health measures, I think it might even be sooner than that. But 2022, I think, is a pretty good bet."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's director, Robert Redfield, seemed to suggest a similar timeline to Fauci's party plan on Wednesday, when he said most Americans would probably have to wait until the summer or fall of 2021 to get their shots.
A vaccine alone won't stop the pandemic, Fauci says
A lot of work is needed before 2022 to get ready for a near-normal lifestyle, though.
Fauci said the plan required "most everybody in the population gets vaccinated" — a feat, he thinks, "could be accomplished by the end of 2021."
But according to recent polling, only about two-thirds of Americans are on board with the idea of getting any eventual coronavirus vaccine, a much lower figure than the average level of interest in most other countries.
It's a sentiment recently echoed by many other public-health pros, including Maria Elena Bottazzi, a vaccine developer at Baylor College of Medicine.
"The moment you get a vaccine doesn't mean you're going to put your mask in the trash," Bottazzi told Business Insider. "That is not going to happen. I hope people don't think that is going to be the magic solution for all."
It's all part of a comprehensive disease-fighting process that could stretch toward the end of 2021 before we're "to the point where we want to be," Fauci said, noting that the recommended procedures of handwashing, distancing, and other virus precautions (like not crowding into bars) that he's been "incessantly" promoting for months are still "not universally adhered to."
"A combination of an effective vaccine and adherence to certain public-health principles will get us to the point where we want to be, by the end of 2021," Fauci said. "I never said just the vaccine."
The virus may still linger then, and infections will probably continue to pop up in some spots, but if most people are protected, the threat of an outbreak will remain low.
Life will probably never feel exactly the same as it did before, but we could get close to that old level of comfort with hugging, kissing, and singing around others again.
"If there's almost no infection in the community, together with the vaccine, you might want to be able to say, 'I can safely congregate with people,'" Fauci said. "You may want to do it with a mask, or without a mask. It's all going to depend on the level of infection in the community and how low you got it down with your vaccine."
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