The following is a transcript of an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, that aired on Sunday, July 11, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”
JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning and welcome to Face the Nation. More thanare fully vaccinated. That’s just under 60%. But just under a third of American adults have not had even a single shot, which is worrisome to health officials. The now makes up more than half of all new cases in the US. In addition, there is new confusion over the role of a booster shot. We begin today with Dr. Anthony Fauci. Good morning, Dr. Fauci.
CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Good morning, John.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let’s start with the Delta variant, it seems to be making the case for vaccination more clear than ever with those who are being seriously affected coming from the population of those who are unvaccinated. That would seem to make a clear case, is it that the facts are not getting to people or is it the people delivering the message to those who are unvaccinated that that needs to change?
DR. FAUCI: Well, I think maybe all of the above, you know, it is almost inexplicable why people, when they see the data in front of them that they don’t get vaccinated. We have a Delta variant that you mentioned, John, that is easily transmissible much more easily and readily and efficiently from person to person than the other viruses, the other variants that we’ve dealt with. That’s the first thing. The second thing, the data that’s hitting you right between the eyes is that ninety nine point five percent of all the deaths to COVID-19 are in unvaccinated people. So you’re talking about something that’s life saving. So the idea of why some people, for whatever reasons and we know some of them are ideological, we know when you look geographically in the situations where you have under vaccinated states where you have 30% or less of the people vaccinated, I mean, we’ve really got to get beyond that and we’ve got to put those kinds of differences aside and say this is a public health issue. When you hear people at rallies talking, don’t get vaccinated, don’t get vaccinated. John, it doesn’t make any sense because we’re talking about a public health issue that is life saving for you, your family, as well as your community. So you’re right, we are in a very difficult position. We have more vaccines in this country than we know what to do with everybody and anybody can get vaccinated. And we have people throughout the world who would do anything to get vaccinated because they appreciate the importance of safeguarding their health. So it’s a very, very frustrating situation.
JOHN DICKERSON: I want to get to the science of the Delta variant in a minute, but let’s stay on this question for a moment and ask you about human psychology. You say the facts are hitting people between the eyes. Is it possible that people are a little scared, a little nervous, and the more facts they hear, they don’t hear evidence. What they hear is you’re a dummy for not getting this and that. Potentially people feel insulted when- when the evidence is presented as if it should be clearly obvious to any normal person and that all that does is put them back in their corner.
DR. FAUCI: You know, you have a point there, and that’s the reason, John, we’re what’s going on right now is getting trusted messengers, not government officials like myself, but trusted messengers in the community to outreach to people. And those messages could be your family doctor. It could be a clergy person. It could be a community leader. It could be a sports figure. It could be the people who are really trusted by the community. So you’re absolutely right. I mean, telling people, you know, you’ve got to get vaccinated, you’ve got to get vaccinated. I mean, I think it’s important to point that out. People do need to know, not in a pejorative way, not in a finger pointing way, but just look at the data. Ninety-nine point five percent of all of the deaths are among unvaccinated people. So we have vaccines that are highly, highly effective. And what we need to do is to get those trusted messengers, which we’re trying to do to get out into the community and explain to people, you know, in a non finger pointing way why it’s important to get vaccinated.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about- let’s take two different states, because the Delta variant operates differently depending on the vaccine rates in different states. So describe for me, let’s take two states. Massachusetts has a high vaccination rate. Mississippi has a low one. If the Delta variant appear- it’s the majority variant in the country, it’s only going to get worse. Tell me how people who live in those two states should think about the Delta variant, given the levels of vaccination in those two places.
DR. FAUCI: OK, John, that’s a great question and it’s a pretty simple answer. The vaccines that we have available to people, for example, as you mentioned, in Massachusetts and other states who have a high degree of vaccination, quite protected against the Delta variant, all the data that we have from this country and from several other countries, not just the United States, show that the vaccines that we are using right now do very well in protecting against the Delta variant, particularly protecting you against severe disease that might lead to hospitalization for those states that have a very, very low level of vaccination. You’re dealing with a virus, the Delta variant that’s highly efficient and spreading from person to person. And the numbers don’t lie in those states where you have a low degree of vaccination. That’s where we’re seeing surges of infection, which are followed by surges in hospitalization, which will ultimately lead to increases in deaths. So it’s pretty clear from the data, John, that if you were vaccinated, your risk is extraordinarily low. If you are unvaccinated, you have a high risk of this very nasty variant, the Delta variant.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me switch to the question of boosters, Pfizer this week said that there was evidence that immunity diminishes from the vaccine and they’ve called for a booster shot. The CDC and the FDA said in a joint statement, Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. Any statement that says that at this time can, of course, change tomorrow. So what exactly is the situation with boosters and- and the future possibility of needing one?
DR. FAUCI: Well, certainly it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely that at some time we will need a boost, it may be differentially needed depending upon the age of individuals and their underlying conditions. For example, people who have underlying conditions that make them more likely to have a severe outcome. The situation and you’re right, John, it could be confusing when you’re talking about an official recommendation from a public health organization like the CDC or a regulatory agency like the FDA. It will have to be based on solid data from both the laboratory and clinical studies. And in real time, those agencies follow and do studies. We at the NIH are doing a number of studies to determine do we have solid evidence for doing this now? Right now, what the CDC and the FDA said in a joint statement is that at this time we don’t see the need for it. What the pharmaceutical company Pfizer did, they did their own study and said, you know, we think you’re going to need a boost. So we’re preparing to boost. That’s fine. Look, we want companies. We want academic institutions, and we want the government to continue to collect data. So it really is a question of a firm recommendation versus an opinion.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about that timing question, though. Some people in nursing homes, for example, vulnerable populations, got their shots many months ago. The clock is ticking. So is it going to be possible to begin the process of preparing for a boost so that when it’s needed, if officials decide it’s needed companies and the process will be in place to give it at the right time? Or will the machinery have to get going to get a boost and it’ll be the window will have closed essentially to give it to people.
DR. FAUCI: Great question, John. No, the process is going on right now. We at the NIH are doing a number of studies looking at the feasibility of boosting the kinds of boost you might want to get, what kind of timetable for the boost those studies are going on right now. So it is really a very good question. It isn’t as if we’re going to start from square one, if it looks like there are breakthroughs, infection, or if you look like the laboratory data indicate that there’s a diminution in immunity. By no means. Right now, we are preparing full throttle for doing boosters if we need them. All right,
JOHN DICKERSON: Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you so much for being with us.