(Headline USA) Once a coronavirus vaccine is approved as safe and effective, Americans should have widespread access within a reasonable time, Dr. Anthony Fauci assured lawmakers Friday.
Appearing before a House panel investigating the nation’s response to the pandemic, Fauci said he endorsed President Donald Trump’s decisions that helped save lives during the initial phases of the coronavirus outbreak. Under questioning from special committee Ranking Member Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Congressman who also serves as Republican Whip, Fauci said Trump’s early decision to ban flights from China and later Europe were measures he supported and agreed with — and even helped in making the decisions.
“By and large, would you say that you and President Trump have been in agreement on most of those decisions?” Scalise asked.
“We’re in agreement on virtually all of those,” the doctor replied.
Fauci also expressed “cautious” optimism that a vaccine would be available, particularly by next year.
“I believe, ultimately, over a period of time in 2021, that Americans will be able to get it,” Fauci said, referring to the vaccine.
There will be a priority list for who gets early vaccinations.
“I don’t think we will have everybody getting it immediately,” Fauci explained.
But “ultimately, within a reasonable time, the plans allow for any American who needs the vaccine to get it,” he added.
Under direction from the White House, federal health authorities are carrying out a plan dubbed Operation Warp Speed to manufacture 300 million doses of a vaccine on a compressed timeline.
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, said a quarter-million people have expressed interest in taking part in studies of experimental vaccines for the coronavirus.
He said that 250,000 people have registered on a government website to take part in vaccine trials, which are pivotal for establishing safety and effectiveness. Not all patients who volunteer to take part in clinical trials are eligible to participate.
Fauci was joined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Dr. Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir.
At a time when early progress seems to have been lost and uncertainty clouds the nation’s path forward, Fauci is calling on lawmakers — and all other Americans — to go back to public health basics such as social distancing and wearing masks.
The panel, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, is divided about how to reopen schools and businesses, mirroring divisions among Americans. Committee Chairman Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said the White House must come up with a comprehensive national plan to contain the virus. Scalise said the Trump administration has plans already on vaccines, testing, nursing homes and other coronavirus-related issues.
A rebound of cases across the South and the West has dashed hopes for a quick return to normal life. Problems with the availability and timeliness of testing continue to be reported. And the race for a vaccine, though progressing rapidly, has yet to deliver a breakthrough.
Nearly 4.5 million Americans have been been infected since the start of the pandemic, and more than 150,000 have died, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Fauci said there’s evidence the surge across the South may be peaking, but upticks in the Midwest are now a concern.
“They’ve really got to jump all over that because if they don’t then you might see the surge we saw in some of the Southern states,” he told the AP.