Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who also serves as a member of the White House coronavirus task force, urged Americans on Monday against sidestepping preventative COVID-19 measures in light of the new vaccine that is being deployed across the US.
Fauci noted in an interview with MSNBC that “a vaccine right now is not a substitute for the normal, standard public health measures of wearing a mask, keeping your distance, avoiding congregate crowded sections and particularly indoors.”
“It’s not a substitute; it complements it,” he stressed.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) December 14, 2020
The prominent health professional further explained that preventative measures are not likely to be eased until “the level of infection in society [drops] so low that it's no longer a public health threat.”
In terms of when Americans might expect the US to return to pre-coronavirus living standards, Fauci indicated that he doesn’t expect such a change until the second half of 2021, but that it could happen sometime later as well. He also suggested that COVID-19 vaccines may be widely available to the majority of Americans by spring 2021, depending on the “efficiency of the rollout.”
"By the time we get to the fall, we can start approaching some degree of relief where the level of infection will be so low in society we can start essentially approaching some form of normality," he told MSNBC host Hallie Jackson.
Fauci’s remarks come as the first doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine were deployed across the US on Monday after the FDA issued an emergency use authorization to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies on Friday.
The Pfizer vaccine has a proven 95% efficacy against COVID-19 and requires individuals to take two separate 30-microgram doses 21 days apart.
The deal between the US federal government and Pfizer is to supply some 100 million doses of the vaccine by next March, of which some 3 million are due to be dispensed as the first batch to medical responders and nursing home staffers and residents, according to the New York Times.
With a test positivity ratio of 11.42%, the US is seeing cases rising in California, Tennessee, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The US death toll topped 300,000 on Monday as more than 190,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported. The COVID Tracking Project reports that 109,331 Americans were hospitalized as of Sunday, of which 21,231 have been admitted to intensive care units.