Anthony Fauci is being broadly slammed after admitting to the New York Times that he publicly lowballed his estimate of the Covid-19 herd immunity threshold, but, as Holman Jenkins writes in WSJ, it’s ludicrously late in the day to discover that “messaging” has been going on.
Official lying about things large and small has been a staple of COVID politics: the letters to college students threatening them with arrest if they don’t quarantine, the interstate travel “bans” that were never enforced, the death counts that swept up anybody who died of any cause while infected with COVID.
Only lately has this reality snuck into public rhetoric as leaders in New York, Massachusetts and elsewhere started admitting that their moves are more about “signaling” than any practical effect.
And now, as The Western Journal's Kipp Jones reports, Fauci is perhaps up to his "signaling" best once again, saying in an interview that the COVID-19 vaccines becoming mandatory in some cases is “on the table” with regard to international travel, or even in some localities to allow a return to in-person learning at schools.
Speaking to Newsweek in an interview that was published on Friday, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spoke on the potential for so-called immunity passports, stating, “Anything is on the table. Anything is possible, of course.”
Fauci, who presumed president-elect Joe Biden announced last month would serve as the chief medical adviser in a Biden administration, Forbes reported, signaled he would help to form policy for which cases vaccines might become mandatory. But he doesn’t foresee the federal government mandating the vaccines broadly.
“It’s not up to me to make a decision. But these are all things that will be discussed [under the Biden administration],” he told Newsweek.
Fauci stated with regard to national health matters “we almost never mandate things federally.”
“I’m not sure [the COVID vaccine is] going to be mandatory from a central government standpoint, like federal government mandates,” he said.
“But there are going to be individual institutions that I’m sure are going to mandate it.”
“For example, influenza and Hepatitis B vaccines are mandated at many hospitals. Here at the NIH [National Institutes of Health], I would not be allowed to see patients if I didn’t get vaccinated every year with flu and get vaccinated once with Hepatitis [B]. I have to get certified every year … if I didn’t, I couldn’t see patients,” he said.
As far as mandatory vaccinations for schools go, Fauci said he foresees those decisions being made “at the state level and city level.”
“A citywide school system might require it in some cities but not other cities. And that’s what I mean by things not being done centrally but locally,” he added.
He also speculated some countries might make proof of a vaccine required prior to travel. Israel, for example, will issue the so-called immunity passports to citizens traveling abroad. Those passports could allow those who have them to avoid COVID testing upon arrival at their destinations.
The U.S. could issue similar immunization passports under a Biden administration and potentially at the recommendation of Fauci.
Also, with regard to confusing information about the vaccines which might require those inoculated to remain socially distant and masked, Fauci said that is because it is not yet known if being vaccinated can prevent people from passing along the coronavirus to others.
“We do not know if the vaccines that prevent clinical disease also prevent infection. They very well might, but we have not proven that yet,” he told Newsweek.
“That’s the reason why I keep saying that even though you get vaccinated, we should not eliminate, at all, public health measures like wearing masks because we don’t know yet what the effect [of the vaccine] is on transmissibility.”
On the subject of the unknowns about both the coronavirus and now the vaccine, Fauci said “We don’t know what we don’t know.”
A day before his Newsweek interview, Fauci predicted a return to “normality” by the fall of this year during an interview on MSNBC.
“If we do it correctly, hopefully, as we get into the end of the summer, the beginning of the fall of 2021, we can start to approach some degree of normality,” he said.
However, we return to Jenkins' WSJ op-ed for the reality of a return to normality. At year-end, pundits everywhere sermonized over the lessons of the pandemic: the need to change our relationship with nature, the need for more disease surveillance, etc.
Most of it won’t matter in the least when natural selection throws up another disease with the properties of Covid-19. The virus wasn’t just transmitted easily; crucially, its effects were mild enough that for billions of humans the cost of quashing it outweighed the personal benefit.
This rock-bottom truth our uninsightful media spent much of 2020 trying not to understand. Worse, it tried to make this truth go away by frightening or morally bullying people into behaviors at odds with perceived self-interest.
This proved to be the dead end it usually does. We need to smarten up. Limited social distancing to protect the most vulnerable is the only kind likely to prove sustainable over time.