Anthony Fauci wants to put Covid’s politicization behind him

“After more than five decades of federal service under seven presidents, Anthony Fauci says he’s leaving by the end of President Joe Biden’s term.

[..] his assessment, that we’ll live with Covid-19 for many years to come, is a startling admission from the longtime infectious disease expert who said the country could flatten the curve and achieve herd immunity, first through social distancing and then vaccination. [..]

If called to testify [to Congress], Fauci will stress the importance of vaccines and boosters, but acknowledge there may never be a definitive moment when the country can claim victory over an evolving virus that has killed more than one million Americans and left thousands with long Covid symptoms.

The disease’s toll has slowed, the result of vaccination, acquired immunity and less-deadly strains. But it continues to kill more than 300 Americans a day, and the fear of a deadlier variant is ever-present.

“What we have right now, I think we’re almost at a steady state,” Fauci said. [..]

There are more than 130,000 documented Covid-19 cases a day, a figure that officials and public health experts say could be as much as four or five times lower than the actual infection rate as people take at-home tests or simply do not know they are transmitting the virus.

“I think, although I don’t know for sure, [that] over the next cycle or so, we’ll be getting towards a once a year boost, like flu,” Fauci said, expressing the uncertainty that has plagued scientists and the Biden administration when they contemplate the speed with which a new variant can take hold.

Even with the hope of moving to a flu shot-like schedule, that speed, with new strains sometimes becoming dominant in a matter of weeks, has humbled disease experts and vaccine developers worldwide.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna in late June presented data for updated, Omicron-targeting vaccines to the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory panel and predicted shots could be ready in late August. By that time, Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 already accounted for more than half of U.S. cases. Reformulating the shots for those strains would push timelines through mid-fall.

It’s “not impossible, but more difficult” to develop vaccines for the next dominant coronavirus strain because of the variants’ pace, said Fauci. A more regular vaccination schedule could be anywhere from six months to two years away, he predicted.

[..] when asked what he wants his legacy to be, it’s not the coronavirus response. Fauci points to the virus that originally led him into infectious disease research and the NIAID director role in 1984, HIV/AIDS.

That work, he is quick to point out, always had bipartisan backing outside of Reagan’s hesitation. With Fauci’s urging, Trump pledged in a State of the Union address to end America’s HIV epidemic. President Barack Obama released the federal government’s first national HIV/AIDS strategy in 2010. And with President George W. Bush, Fauci says he accomplished what “may be the most impactful thing I have done in my career” – the founding of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, a global program the State Department estimates has saved 21 million lives.

In the decades since Fauci began work on HIV/AIDS, treating and preventing the virus has transformed. People live for years with HIV or can prevent transmission with daily pills and now, injections every few months. But an HIV vaccine remains elusive and, Fauci says, likely many years away.”

Full article, S Owermohle, Politico, 2022.7.18