Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to the members of a predominantly African American church in Boston about the soon-to-be-released coronavirus vaccine. Fauci sought to allay fears the congregation may have about the vaccine, specifically since communities of color have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus compared to other communities.
“Minority communities, particularly African Americans and Latinx, elderly individuals, those with underlying conditions, those who have suffered most from this terrible outbreak are the ones that stand to benefit the most [from a COVID-19 vaccine],” Dr. Fauci said in a video conference call hosted by Roxbury Presbyterian Church.
Why Are Some People Wary of the Coronavirus Vaccine?
Dr. Fauci addressed three reasons why some in the United States may be hesitant to receive the vaccines that drug companies Moderna and Pfizer have developed and which are currently in the process of receiving emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Fauci, who holds a position on President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, named three concerns people may have with the vaccine, specifically those who belong to communities of color:
The history of people of color being experimented on without their knowledge by medical practitioners
The vaccine was developed very quickly
The public has received “mixed signals” from Washington about the pandemic
Addressing the first concern, Dr. Fauci said this fact is precisely why scientists sought people of color to participate in the trials for the vaccine—to prove that it is just as safe and effective for white people as it is for people of color.
Dr. Fauci assured those listening that the process of determining whether a vaccine is safe and effective is a process that is “independent of the federal government and independent of people who might have a vested interest, like the pharmaceutical company.” When a new vaccine is developed, a data and safety monitoring board, which is independent of the company making a vaccine, tests the new vaccine. After testing, the data and safety monitoring board tell the company about the results, then they inform the scientists at the FDA. Fauci was careful to explain these scientists at the FDA are “career scientists” and are not “politicians who might have a vested interest.” Next, the FDA runs the information by its own independent review panel, which then decides whether or not to approve the vaccine. The whole process, says Fauci, is marked by “independence and transparency.”
This is important, Fauci acknowledges, because some people are hesitant to trust anyone associated with politicians or federal agencies when it comes to matters of health and science.
Dr. Fauci also addressed the relative speed with which the vaccine was created. He insisted the speed “does not compromise safety, nor does it compromise scientific integrity.” Rather, the reason the vaccine was able to be developed so quickly is thanks in part to advances in technology. What used to take us weeks now takes days, Fauci said. He also emphasized that the testing process has been thorough.
When asked how we are supposed to know about any potential long term consequences of the vaccine, Fauci said that with other vaccines, such effects have shown up within 60 days of a person receiving a vaccine. In the case of the coronavirus vaccines, Fauci said a full 60 days after half the people in the trial get the last dose of the vaccine will transpire before the vaccine is approved.
When asked if he himself will receive the vaccine, Dr. Fauci said he would after waiting his turn (alluding to the fact that certain populations such as health care workers will be prioritized to receive the vaccine before others). He also said he is advising the members of his family to do the same.
Dr. Fauci Explains Herd Immunity
A term that you’ve likely heard in relation to the pandemic is herd immunity. The term comes from a metaphor, explains Fauci, of pack animals in the wild. He gave the example of a herd of gazelle in Africa. In the same way a herd of gazelle protect the weak and vulnerable in their herds by circling around them when predators are present, those who get vaccinated are helping the weak and vulnerable in their communities. Dr. Fauci explained that if the majority of people in a community get vaccinated and consequently do not contract the coronavirus, those in their community who cannot get vaccinated (for instance, those with weakened immune systems) have a lower chance of contracting the virus themselves.