Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that the U.S. should not declare premature “victory” against the COVID-19 pandemic and that safety measures are still needed despite low case numbers.
Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper in an interview published on Monday that vaccinations were key to controlling the virus.
“We don’t want to declare victory prematurely because we still have a ways to go,” Fauci said. “But the more and more people that can get vaccinated, as a community, the community will be safer and safer.”
“As long as there is some degree of activity throughout the world, there’s always a danger of variants emerging and diminishing somewhat the effectiveness of our vaccines,” Fauci said.
Fauci’s caution comes as daily COVID cases in the U.S. have dropped to below 30,000 amid a mass vaccine rollout.
The infectious diseases expert also addressed the question of providing COVID vaccines to other countries following a U.S. commitment to donate 80 million vaccines for international use.
“We are discussing right now at various levels about how we might be able to up production to get vaccine doses from the companies that are already making them for us, get more doses that will be able to be distributed to lower- and middle-income countries,” Fauci said.
Fauci stressed the importance of the U.S. population continuing to receive the vaccine and the need to maintain public health measures for the time being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50.5 percent of the total U.S. population has had at least their first shot.
“Today, in our current day, the accessibility and the convenience of getting a vaccine is really rather striking,” Fauci said.
The Biden administration’s goal is that 70 percent of the U.S. adult population has at least one dose of the COVID vaccine by July 4, a goal President Joe Biden has framed in terms of the Independence Day celebrations.
“We cannot abandon public health measures when you still have a degree of viral activity in the broad community in the United States,” Fauci went on. “Although we’re down to less than 30,000 infections per day that’s still a lot of infections per day.”
Memorial Day Weekend may mark the beginning of a summer where COVID restrictions are eased and some aspects of life return to normal. The CDC recently issued updated guidance saying that fully vaccinated people didn’t have to wear masks in most indoor and outdoor settings. However, some states have kept their mask mandates in place for now.
Newsweek has asked NIAID for comment.