Fauci: Masks, Social Distancing Still Needed Even After COVID-19 Vaccine

Talk about a Debbie Downer.

Optimism (and the stock markets) exploded last week when reports emerged that a new COVID-19 experimental vaccine was testing at 90% effectiveness. But Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday said even after it’s widely available, Americans will still need to practice the precautions now in place, like wearing masks and social distancing.

“I would recommend to people to not to abandon all public health measures just because you’ve been vaccinated,” Fauci told CNN anchor Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

“Because even though for the general population it might be 90 to 95 percent effective, you don’t necessarily know for you how effective it is,” said Fauci, an immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who served on the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Fauci, 81, said that even after he receives a vaccine, he still won’t feel comfortable abandoning precautions.

“I can feel more relaxed in essentially not having the stringency that we have right now, but I think abandoning it completely would not be a good idea,” Fauci said.

“It’s not going to be a light switch, Jake,” Fauci said. “We’re not going to turn it on and off, going from where we are to completely normal. … It’s going to be a gradual accrual of more normality as the weeks and the months go by as we get well into 2021.”

The pharmaceutical company Pfizer said on Monday that its developmental vaccine for COVID-19 may be 90% effective at inoculating people against the disease.

The rate of effectiveness was calculated by analyzing early data from 94 trial participants in a study involving 43,538 subjects from all over the world. The small early sample means that the protection rate could change by the time the study ends and all the participants are accounted for, according to the Associated Press.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said in a statement.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen,” Bourla continued. “With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis. We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.”

In his CNN interview, Fauci also said Sunday that “it would be better” if government health officials could start working with Joe Biden’s transition team.

“Of course it would be better if we could start working with them,” Fauci said. “As you know, I’ve been through multiple transitions now, having served six presidents for 36 years. And it’s very clear that the transition process that we go through … is really important in a smooth handing over of the information as well as it’s almost like passing the baton in a race.”

“You don’t want to stop and then give it to somebody, you want to essentially keep going,” he said.

Related: Pfizer Says Vaccine May Be 90% Effective, Plans To Apply For Emergency Use By End Of November

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