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Thanks to coronavirus vaccines, Fauci says 'Covid won’t be a pandemic for a lot longer'

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. (AP)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. (AP)

  • Fauci's comments came after American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech said their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90% effective
  • Acknowledging that Covid fatigue has set in across much the world, Dr Fauci urged people to stay resolved while awaiting the vaccines

America's top infectious diseases expert and sidelined White House Covid-19 taskforce member Dr Anthony Fauci said that the novel coronavirus won’t be a pandemic for “a lot longer". Dr Fauci also thanked the rapid progress in Covid-19 vaccine development.

“Certainly it’s not going to be a pandemic for a lot longer, because I believe the vaccines are going to turn that around," Dr Fauci said, adding, “Vaccines will help us. What we’ve got to do is just hang on and continue to double down on the public health measures."

Covid-19 could nonetheless circulate for years, and people need to recommit to inexpensive public health measures like wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing as cases surge, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said at a function organised by Chatham House, a UK think tank.

Virus mutation detected

A virus mutation detected in Danish mink raised for their fur probably won’t compromise vaccines that are in development, Fauci said. Last week, Denmark revealed it had found a variant of the virus that officials fear could be so disruptive that it justified ordering the extermination of the country’s mink population of 17 million animals.

Concerns were raised over the mutation because it occurred on the virus’s spike protein, which vaccines target.

Fauci said his conclusions were based on initial research by scientists in the U.S. While the mutation probably won’t compromise vaccines, it could create problems for treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, he said.

Still, monoclonal antibody therapies, as well as antivirals, are increasingly in need of development so that people can get treated early on, thus sparing hospitals from getting overcrowded, Fauci said.

The public also needs to be prepared for the likelihood that protection against the virus -- whether from vaccines or from fighting off Covid -- will probably only last for a year, perhaps two, he said. That’s based on experience with similar viruses and the growing number of documented cases of people being infected with this coronavirus twice, he said.

While the virus is constantly mutating as it spreads, it’s unlikely to become more virulent or undermine the efficacy of vaccines -- though again, such changes could lessen the impact of some therapies, he said.

Fauci urged people to stay resolved

Acknowledging that Covid fatigue has set in across much the world, Fauci urged people to stay resolved while awaiting the vaccines.

“Help is on the way, but it’s not here yet," he said. “To me, that’s more of an incentive of ‘Please don’t give up. Don’t despair. The end is in sight.’"

Fauci's comments came after American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech said their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 among those without evidence of prior infection, according to data from their late-stage vaccine trial.

Findings from the trial of a similar shot, developed by Moderna Inc., are expected soon.

Pfizer and its German partner are the first drugmakers to release successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine. The drug firms said they have so far found no serious safety concerns and expect to seek US authorisation this month for emergency use of the vaccine.

With agency inputs

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