Fauci’s comments come as the virus continues to spread across the United States, infecting more than 1.3 million people and killing at least 80,684 on Tuesday morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. U.S. health officials say the actual number of cases and deaths is likely to be much higher, as some people infected with the virus go undetected.
In the United States, some states are starting to reopen businesses despite projections suggesting that this will cause a steady increase in the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the next two weeks.
Fauci said he was concerned that some states would loosen restrictions on social displacement even as their Covid-19 affairs continue to increase. The White House has presented a plan that allows states to gradually reopen local businesses as cases and hospitalizations decrease and tests increase, among other “checkpoints”.
“What I have repeatedly expressed is my concern that if certain regions, cities, states, what have you, jump over these different checkpoints and open prematurely without having the capacity to being able to respond effectively and efficiently my concern is that we will start to see small spikes that could turn into epidemics, “he said during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and pensions.
Fauci reiterated his call for a vaccine as essential to stop the spread of the coronavirus and reduce the death rate from the pandemic. He said he was optimistic that they would find a viable candidate, but cautioned against potential pitfalls in the development of any vaccine. He also said that one of them would not be ready for the school year starting this fall.
“Even at the maximum speed we are going, we don’t see a vaccine playing in people’s ability to go back to school this term,” he said.
Until a vaccine is ready, said Fauci, “the country’s Covid-19 response is currently focused on proven public health practices of containment and mitigation,” he said in testimony written submission before the hearing. Even though there are more than 100 potential vaccines under development, Fauci warned that “there is no guarantee that the vaccine will actually work.”
Another concern among epidemiologists, said Fauci, is that the vaccine backfires and reinforces the virus.
There have been at least two vaccines in the past that have produced a “suboptimal response,” he said. “And when the person is exposed, they actually have an increased pathogenesis of the disease, which is always worrying. So we want to make sure that doesn’t happen. These are the two main unknowns. “
Fauci told the New York Times on Monday that he plans to publicly warn states that the premature reopening of their economies would cause “unnecessary suffering and death”.
“The main message I want to send tomorrow to the Senate committee of the HLP is the danger of trying to open the country prematurely,” Fauci wrote in an email to Sheryl Gay Stolberg, a health policy reporter for the New York Times. .
“If we skip the checkpoints in the guidelines to:” Open America again “, then we risk the danger of multiple epidemics across the country. This will not only cause unnecessary suffering and death, but will actually put us on our quest again to return to normal, “wrote Fauci.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, previously warned state officials against reopening their economies too soon. Although his written testimony did not address the issue, he had to address these concerns at the hearing.
Hopes for bringing a vaccine to market are high, but scientists have low expectations about how quickly it can happen. Developing, testing and examining any potential vaccine is a long, complex and expensive undertaking that could take years, according to global health experts.
President Donald Trump has already said there could be a vaccine by the end of the year, which contradicts forecasts by his own health officials and American scientists who claim it will take a year to 18 months at the earliest.
Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the measles epidemic in the United States before a hearing by the Energy and Trade Monitoring and Investigative Subcommittee at Capitol Hill in Washington on February 3, 2015.
Jim Bourg | Reuters
Fauci, in his written testimony Tuesday, touted the US government’s vaccine partnership with biotechnology company Moderna, which is completing its phase one trial. The company’s potential vaccine contains genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA, that has been produced in the laboratory. Moderna announced last week that it would soon begin phase two trials with 600 participants and finalize plans for an advanced stage trial this summer.
US health officials are also working with several other groups, Fauci said, including researchers at the University of Oxford who are developing a vaccine candidate.
Meanwhile, effective therapies are “essential” for treating patients infected with the virus, said Fauci.
On May 1, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for Gildes Sciences remdesivir to treat Covid-19, which means doctors will be allowed to use the drug on patients hospitalized for the disease , even if the drug has not been formally approved by the agency to treat coronavirus.
In addition to remdesivir, Fauci said U.S. health officials are developing and testing other new and redirected therapies, including monoclonal antibodies, which are laboratory-created proteins that attack specific antigens.
They are also planning clinical trials to evaluate hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, an antimalarial drug, in patients with mild to moderate Covid-19 and hyperimmune intravenous immunoglobulins for the treatment of the disease, a- he declared.
The National Institutes of Health also support an effort by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the development of diagnostic tests to detect the virus, said Fauci.
Last week, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins told Congress that the United States would work with companies to perform millions of “accurate and easy to use” coronavirus tests by the end of the summer, and even more before flu season, as states state. lessen social distancing and the Americans return to work.
“These efforts will improve our response to the current pandemic and strengthen our preparation for the next inevitable epidemic of emerging diseases,” said Fauci on Tuesday.
– CNBC’s Christina Wilkie and Lauren Feiner contributed to this article.
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