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March 24, 2021

Fauci takes questions from Trone constituents

Credit: Cumberland Times-News, Lindsay Renner Wood

WASHINGTON — Over the course of a half-hour virtual event Monday afternoon, Dr. Anthony Fauci answered a range of questions about COVID-19, developments surrounding the vaccine and what to expect over the coming months as more Americans start to get their shots.

The event, hosted and moderated by U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), allowed the congressman’s constituents the chance to submit questions ahead of time for the country’s foremost expert on the pandemic to answer during the Zoom call. During that short time, Fauci took a range of questions, covering everything from vaccine efficacy to his predictions for the rest of the year.

“We really are facing a very serious problem,” Fauci said. “… We really have to do everything we can, both from a public health standpoint as well as from the rollout of the vaccines, which have really thus far been quite successful.”

Challenges remain, Fauci said, as there’s still an average of 53,000 new COVID-19 infections a day. While the infection rate has dropped “sharply” since the holiday season, he noted, that level “is just too high to sustain.”

“We will have a clear-cut resurgence if we don’t get that number down,” Fauci said. “So, we’re calling on all the people in this country both to get vaccinated when your time comes but also to maintain the public health measures as we hopefully get this virus under control.”

In regard to the first question posed, about the efficacy of the available vaccines and how long they are good for, Fauci said a “precise answer” isn’t available, as it generally takes longer to observe those effects than they have been offered. Initial data is, however, promising, he said.

“… Thus far, we have about six to eight months of experience following vaccination and it looks like the immunity … induced by the vaccines lasts at least that long — and likely considerably longer — but we have to follow individuals for at least a couple of years before we can say how long this protective immunity lasts,” Fauci said. “Thus far, there does not appear to be any difference among the three vaccines that have been approved for emergency use: Pfizer, Moderna and J&J.”

Answering a Cumberland resident’s question about the safety of sending students to school without a shot in the fall, Fauci said he believes things will hopefully be more in hand by then.

“I do believe it will be safe because by that time … we will likely have the overwhelming majority of the country vaccinated, which means that the level of virus in the community will be so low we do not feel that it would be terribly risky at all for children in elementary school, even though they will not have been vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci said.

A Frostburg resident asked whether one can still spread COVID-19 after being vaccinated. That, too, is something that will be a bit more apparent in time, Fauci said.

“It is theoretically possible that that’s the case, because when you get vaccinated, you can be protected from clinically apparent COVID-19, but we haven’t proven yet that you’re protected from being infected and yet being asymptomatic,” Dr. Fauci said, noting that initial data indicates the odds of transmission are likely “very low.”