American Thoracic Society International Conference

American Thoracic Society International Conference

Source:

Fauci A. Opening Ceremony. Presented at: American Thoracic Society International Conference; May 14-19, 2021 (virtual meeting).

Disclosures: Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
May 16, 2021
2 min read
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Fauci: COVID-19 vaccines the ‘bright light of this extraordinary challenge’

Source:

Fauci A. Opening Ceremony. Presented at: American Thoracic Society International Conference; May 14-19, 2021 (virtual meeting).

Disclosures: Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
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COVID-19 took center stage at the opening ceremony of the American Thoracic Society International Conference, with a virtual keynote given by Anthony S. Fauci, MD, on lessons learned from the pandemic, a message on vaccination and more.

“Vaccines have been the bright light of this extraordinary challenge that we’ve gone through,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Source: Adobe Stock.

The U.S. currently has more than 30 million cases and more than 580,000 deaths, and still counting, he said. Since the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the U.S. has experienced a slow decline in daily infections.

“We’ve plateaued at a high level, but ... as we get more people vaccinated ... the number of daily infections has gone down from an average of 60,000 as a weekly average per day down to about 40,000,” Fauci said.

Anthony S. Fauci, MD

In early May, President Joe Biden announced a new goal to get 70% of adults in the U.S. at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4th.

“A few weeks ago, I wrote an editorial in Science because there was a misunderstanding in how and why we were able to go from the realization of a new pathogen in January of 2020 to getting doses of vaccines in the arms of individuals of a highly efficacious vaccine 11 months later. Truly, an unprecedented accomplishment. But, as I said in the editorial, the speed and efficiency in which these highly efficacious vaccines were developed and their potential to save millions of lives are due to an extraordinary multidisciplinary effort involving basic, preclinical and clinical science that had been underway, out of the spotlight, for decades before the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Fauci said the COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated real-world effectiveness that is equivalent or better than efficacy observed in clinical trials, which showed 95% efficacy in preventing clinically recognizable disease with the mRNA vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech, and more than 94% efficacy with Moderna. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the efficacy was 72% in the U.S., but when tested against other variants in Brazil and South Africa it was 64% and highly effective against preventing severe disease in all regions studied, he said.

“As many of you know, the effectiveness in the real world is often not as good as the efficacy in the pristine conditions of a clinical trial. We have found just the opposite with COVID-19 vaccines, where effectiveness is easily as good, if not better, in the real-world setting,” Fauci said.

He cited one example of more than 23,000 employees at UT Southwestern who were vaccinated in December 2020; the infection rate was 0.05% among fully vaccinated employees. In Israel, after an initial lockdown along with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, as more people were vaccinated, the country reopened, and there was a diminution continually and gradually over time, and currently, Israel has very few COVID-19 cases, he said.

Fauci also said the vaccines “clearly are safe,” as the clinical trials have proved safety and the CDC and FDA have expanded monitoring systems over large periods of time and large numbers of people, in addition to other safety and monitoring systems.

There are variants of concern, but the data have showed thus far that they are well covered by the vaccines, and all variants are being closely monitored.

Fauci closed by saying: “We are in a race against the virus.”

“If we vaccinate the overwhelming proportion of our population, we will without a doubt be able to crush the outbreak in the same way as we have done with other viral-borne diseases like measles, smallpox and polio,” he said. “So, the message is to get vaccinated.”