Fauci: Vaccines are an incentive to 'double down' on precautions

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Effective coronavirus vaccines are headed for widespread use within several months, but the nation must “double down” on preventive public health measures in the meantime, Anthony Fauci says.

“We are in a very serious situation, but we can do something about it,” the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert said in an interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Traditionally and historically, highly efficacious and effective vaccines have crushed epidemics like smallpox and polio and measles,” Fauci said, expressing confidence in the forthcoming Covid-19 vaccines.

Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have announced they have developed effective coronavirus vaccines. Pfizer has sought Food and Drug Administration authorization for emergency use, and Moderna is expected to follow.

The vaccines should be “an incentive to have us double down even more with public health measures until we get the full component of the help that’s on its way,” Fauci said.

“Putting vaccines aside for a moment, which will be extraordinarily helpful, if we implement the simple public health measures … we can blunt that inflection,” he added. Those measures include wearing masks, physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and avoiding congregate activities, particularly indoors.

Fauci rejected the idea the public can’t take action against the virus’ spread, especially given the upcoming holiday season, which is expected to lead to an uptick of cases. Instead, he urged people to consider whether they have family members at a higher risk of infection, including older people and those with preexisting medical conditions.

“Do you really want to get a crowd of 10, 15, 20 people, many of whom are coming in from places where they have gone from crowded airports, to planes, getting into the house?” he asked. “I mean, those are the things that have been such joyous things in the past. But this is a very special situation.”

“I think the people in this country need to realistically do a risk-benefit assessment,” Fauci said. “Every family is different. Everyone has a different level of risk that they want to tolerate.”

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