“We very well might see a post-seasonal — in the sense of Christmas, New Year’s — surge, and, as I have described it, as a surge upon a surge,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s Dana Bash. As families traveled and gathered for the holidays, they also likely spread the virus, Fauci warned.
“We’re really at a very critical point,” Fauci said on Sunday. “If you put more pressure on the system by what might be a post-seasonal surge because of the traveling and the likely congregating of people for, you know, the good warm purposes of being together for the holidays, it’s very tough for people to not do that.”
Fauci also agreed with President-elect Joe Biden’s assessment that the “darkest days” of the pandemic are yet to come. “I share the concern of president-elect Biden that, as we get into the next few weeks, it might actually get worse,” Fauci warned.
But Fauci also discussed good news — the newly available coronavirus vaccine, which he received recently. Asked about side effects, Fauci said, “The only thing I had was about, maybe six to 10 hours following the vaccine, I felt a little bit of an ache in my arm. That lasted maybe 24 hours, a little bit more, then went away.”
He added, “And completely, other than that, I felt no other deleterious type of effects. It was really quite good. It was even as good or better than an influenza vaccine, so nothing serious at all.”
The immunologist also discussed how many Americans will need to receive the vaccine in order to accomplish herd immunity, meaning that enough of the population is immune to the virus that it cannot continue to spread.
Initially, Fauci had estimated we would need 70-75 percent of the population to be immune, but he has recently raised that number to 85 percent.
“When you get below 90 percent of the population vaccinated with measles, you start seeing a breakthrough against the herd immunity, people starting to get infected, like we saw in the Upper New York state and in New York City with the Orthodox Jewish group, when we had measles outbreak,” Fauci explained. “So, I made a calculation that COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is not as nearly as transmissible as measles. Measles is the most transmissible infection you can imagine. So, I would imagine that you would need something a little bit less than the 90 percent. That’s where I got to the 85.”
Still, he emphasized that his numbers are still just an estimate. “I think we all have to be honest and humble. Nobody really knows for sure. But I think 70 to 85 percent for herd immunity for COVID-19 is a reasonable estimate,” he said.
According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 71 percent of Americans said they would be willing to receive the vaccine. That’s still far fewer than we need to quell the spread. As of December 15, 27 percent of Americans indicated they “probably or definitely would not” get vaccinated, even if scientists and public health officials indicated it was safe.
As with masks, it appears we have more work to do to convince Americans to do the right thing. And the stakes are incredibly high.