During an NIH Q&A on Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci answered questions about the current state of the US outbreak, while trying to manage the public's expectations in a way that adequately conveys the seriousness of the viral threat we are facing. But he was once again forced to acknowledge an intractable fact: That scientists still not sure whether a COVID-19 vaccine will provide lasting projection.
Dr. Fauci was joined by NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins.
The good doctor started out by warning that the "current state is not good," referring to the state of the coronavirus response. The US is still "knee deep" in the first wave of the pandemic. The coronavirus cases went up, came back down, but they never went back to baseline. Now, they're surging back.
"This is a serious situation," Dr. Fauci said.
Moving to the subject of the vaccine trials, while the US government is working with several of the most promising candidates, all of whom will be starting trials involving 30,000 patients from all over the country, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that the scientific community still can't say for certain whether a vaccine will offer lasting protection, or require annual injections, more akin to the flu vaccine.
"We don't know how long COVID-19 antibody protection lasts"...Fauci said. For all we know, any protection provided by the vaccine could be "transitory."
Still, Dr. Fauci says he's "doubtful" about reinfection, although "I wouldn't be surprised if, in rare cases, people went into remission and then relapsed."
In the meantime, the doctor said the NIH is doing everything it can to ensure that the patients included in the study span all age ranges and racial groups. He promised that minority groups will be "well represented" in the trial, offering the customary virtue-signaling that must be a part of every conversation about public issues, not matter how irrelevant.
"It's a high priority," he said.
While there's still so much we don't know, Dr. Fauci said, he does know one thing for sure: this will end.
"We will get through this. I'm absolutely certain. We've already suffered through a lot of pain. But it will end. Science will get us through this. We will get a vaccine," he said.