Dr. Anthony Fauci implored viewers of a Massachusetts Presbyterian church virtual event that they should take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was a guest of a virtual event hosted Tuesday by The Cory Johnson Program for Post-Traumatic Healing at Roxbury Presbyterian Church that has over 2,000 registered viewers.
When the streaming video viewers were asked to take a quick poll about whether they would take the vaccine if it was available today, 66% said yes while 34% said no.
When asked by the Rev. Liz Walker, pastor at Roxbury Presbyterian Church, about concerns over taking a future vaccine, Fauci responded that it was important to understand why someone might be hesitant to get vaccinated.
“Is it a broad generic reason? A distrust of the medical establishment?” said Fauci, noting that there was “a history of abuse particularly of the African-American community” by medical experts, citing the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.
“Or is it something about the process of the speed with which this vaccine was developed and somewhat of the mixed signals that one has been getting in this divisive society from Washington?”
Fauci went on to defend the vaccine development process, explaining that the process is “independent of the federal government and independent of people who might have a vested interest, like the pharmaceutical company.”
“The determination as to whether or not it is safe and effective is made by an independent body, what’s called a data and safety monitoring board, which monitor the trial,” he continued.
“When you reach a point when there’s information to indicate that it is truly safe and effective, they are the only ones that initially have access to that. So the company or the government can’t try and manipulate it to its own advantage.”
Fauci also addressed the concerns some have that the possible vaccines developed by entities like Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech were too quickly created to be truly effective.
“The speed with which it’s been done does not compromise safety nor does it compromise scientific integrity. It is the exquisite nature of the breathtaking scientific advances that have occurred over the last decade or so that have allowed us to do things in weeks to months that formerly took years,” he explained.
“And note that we’re not even allowed to apply for use of it until 60 days passed the time that half the people got their last dose. So we know that safety is paramount.”
Fauci went on to implore groups that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, such as minority communities and the elderly, to get a vaccine when it becomes available in order to create “a blanket of protection over the entire community.”
The Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, co-pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Boston, Massachusetts, asked about minority representation among those getting the vaccine, noting that minority communities had higher rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
Fauci responded that there should be as much representation as possible and also encouraged minority communities to become more involved in vaccine clinical trials, saying that he wanted “to look our African American and Latinx colleagues in the eye and say ‘you know what? We’ve proven that it is not only safe and effective in whites, it’s safe and effective in you and your community.’”
Although progress has been made by multiple companies researching COVID-19 vaccines, some have expressed skepticism over wanting to take a vaccine should it be made available.
A Pew Research Center survey from September found that only 51% of respondents said they would “definitely” or “probably” get a vaccine against COVID-19 if available.
“There are widespread public concerns about aspects of the vaccine development process,” wrote researchers with Pew at the time, also noting that 77% of respondents believe that it was “very or somewhat likely a COVID-19 vaccine will be approved in the United States before its safety and effectiveness are fully understood.”
On Monday, Moderna, Inc. announced that it was filing for an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine with the United States Food & Drug Administration.
As part of the announcement, Moderna reported that its Phase 3 study of the proposed vaccine had a 94.1% efficacy, based upon findings for data that involved 30,000 participants.
“We believe that our vaccine will provide a new and powerful tool that may change the course of this pandemic and help prevent severe disease, hospitalizations and death,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, in a statement.
“I want to thank the thousands of participants in our Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 studies, as well as the staff at clinical trial sites who have been on the front lines of the fight against the virus.”