The country’s leading infectious disease expert warned on Monday that even if a vaccine comes out in November, the majority of Americans may not be vaccinated until the third or fourth quarter of 2021.
“I don’t think we’re going to be back to normal until the end of 2021, and that’s just a prediction,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said speaking at this year’s New Yorker Festival. “We may do better than that — I hope so, but I don’t think so.”
He stressed that the public should keep in mind that American society won’t ease completely back into normal even after the vaccine has been distributed.
That’s why he said the government may still need to employ some restrictions that have been used to curb the pandemic like mask-wearing and avoiding crowds.
“It’s not a political issue, it’s a public health issue,” said Fauci. “The way to open up the government is to use public health measures as a vehicle and gateway.”
Some scientists, however, are expressing an even more urgent concern for the safety behind how vaccines will be distributed to the public.
“I am concerned about whether the vaccine will be safe if there is a lack of transparency in the development process,” said biologist Norma Roncal at the Walter Reed Army Research Institute. “Taking shortcuts to expedite the vaccine production only undermines its credibility about how effective and safe the vaccine is.”
Fauci stressed the necessity for the government to reach minority groups such as the African American and LatinX communities, who are disproportionately affected by the virus and are less likely to have access to such public health resources like vaccines.
“We need to be completely transparent and consistent in what we do. We need to engage the community at their level,” said Fauci.
This cycle of setbacks may persist, he said, if these communities refuse to get involved in clinical trials or have a lack of trust towards a safe and effective vaccine even if they stand to benefit the most from it.
Educating the public about these health measures may become even more complicated given the current divisive political climate.
“Everything gets tinted. Everything gets dragged by political agendas. When it comes to pandemics, that’s the worst-case scenario because it gets in the way of science,” says Dr. Ludovic Desvignes, an assistant professor at New York University Langone’s Department of Medicine and Vaccine Center. “Viruses really don’t care about politics, they will hit everybody.”