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Dr Anthony Fauci warns of 'suffering and death' if US reopens too soon

Fauci, a member of the coronavirus task force charged with shaping the response to COVID-19, which has killed tens of thousands of people in the U.S., is testifying via video conference after self-quarantining as a White House staffer tested positive for the virus.

May 12, 2020 / 06:59 PM IST

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, is warning Congress that if the country reopens too soon during the coronavirus pandemic, it will result in “needless suffering and death.” Fauci is among the health experts testifying to a Senate panel. His testimony comes as President Donald Trump is praising states that are reopening after the prolonged lock-down aimed at controlling the virus' spread.

Fauci, a member of the coronavirus task force charged with shaping the response to COVID-19, which has killed tens of thousands of people in the U.S., is testifying via video conference after self-quarantining as a White House staffer tested positive for the virus.

With the U.S. economy in free-fall and more than 30 million people unemployed, Trump has been pressuring states to reopen.

Fauci, in a statement to The New York Times, warned that officials should adhere to federal guidelines for a phased reopening, including a “downward trajectory” of positive tests or documented cases of coronavirus over two weeks, robust contact tracing and “sentinel surveillance” testing of asymptomatic people in vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes.

“If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines...then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country," Fauci wrote.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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"This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal."

Other senior health officials scheduled to testify before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee will also appear via video link after going into self-quarantine, following their exposure to a White House staffer who tested positive. The chairman of the committee, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, also put himself in quarantine after an aide tested positive. He'll participate by video, too.

Besides Fauci, of the National Institutes of Health, the other experts include FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with Adm. Brett Giroir, the coronavirus “testing czar” at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Even before the gavel drops, the hearing offers two takeaways for the rest of the country, said John Auerbach, president of the nonprofit public health group Trust for America's Health.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.
PTI
first published: May 12, 2020 06:54 pm

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