Fauci’s responses to Brennan’s questions about various aspects of the Covid pandemic provide corporate executives with important lessons on how to explain a crisis to the media and the public.
Following are a few excerpts from the transcript of the interview, which should be recommended reading for all business leaders who want to prepare for when they have to communicate about a crisis at their company or organization.
Issue A Warning
DR. FAUCI: Well, we certainly have the potential to go into a fifth wave. And the fifth wave, or the magnitude of any increase, if you want to call it that it will turn into a wave, will really be dependent upon what we do in the next few weeks to a couple of months.
Provide A Reality Check
DR. FACUI: For example, we have now about 62 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated, who have not yet gotten vaccinated. Superimpose upon that, the fact that, unquestionably, the people who got vaccinated six, seven, eight, nine, 10 months ago, we’re starting to see an understandable diminution in the level of immunity.
It’s called waning immunity, and it was seen more emphatically in other countries before we saw it here. For example, Israel, which is usually about a month or a month and a half ahead of us temporally with regard to the dynamics of the outbreak, the administration of vaccines and most recently, boosters.
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Stress What’s Important
DR. FUACI: So now we know that although the vaccines are very effective and the data that you look at are incontrovertible, that if you compare unvaccinated with vaccinated, infections, hospitalizations, deaths, dramatically multifold more in those who are unvaccinated. However, given the waning of immunity, right now boosters are going to be very important.
A third shot for those who got the two mRNAs and another additional shot for those who got the J&J. If we have a combination of getting as many people as we can get vaccinated as possible who have not yet gotten vaccinated, add on to it the children who are now eligible, the five to 11. [T]there’s twenty eight million of those, and getting the many, many people now, 70% of the entire population of adults has been vaccinated—about 80% has been vaccinated.
Discuss What’s Possible
DR. FAUCI: The way you’ve eliminated polio from the United States, you’ve eliminated malaria, which was, you know, decades and decades ago. We had malaria right here in Washington, D.C. We’ve eliminated measles because we have a very, very, very intensive vaccine campaign that did that.
So we’re looking at control. So control has a pretty wide bracket. You don’t want to control at 70 to 80,000. I have…said I would like to see [control] get below 10,000, but maybe even lower than that.
Because if you have a smoldering amount of infection in society, that’s 20, 30, 40,000 infections, what happens is that as immunity wanes among people, even the vaccinated people secondarily become more at risk. If you lower the level of infection so low that it doesn’t give the virus the opportunity to either seek out the very vulnerable, or those who’s never been vaccinated, and the somewhat vulnerable, those whose immunity has waned down to a certain level.
If You Don’t Know, Say So
MARGARET BRENNAN: “But you’ve been talking about all the problems you have there with convincing these people who are really dug-in and anti-vaccine. Is it really realistic that we have to get to 85% of the population, which is what you’ve said in the past, in order to sort of have herd immunity? I mean, it seems almost impossible to get there.”
DR. FAUCI: We have to be very humble about it. We don’t know what that number is. And the reason is the number is a moving target. Because if you get someone who’s vaccinated and he wanes down and gets below a certain level, I don’t know whether you can count that as a [fully] protected person, which is the reason why it’s a combination not only of getting the total population vaccinated as a primary, but also getting people boosted.
Explain What’s Needed Next
DR. FAUCI: Yeah, yeah, we need to do a lot of things and the things that we certainly need to do, and we’ve been discussing this as recently as yesterday, that we really need to find out when you do boost an individual, how long does that immunity last, both from a laboratory standpoint and from a protection standpoint?
So the one thing we want to make sure, now that we’re getting full blown into the booster phase, we’ve got to make sure we know what that means from a clinical standpoint.
Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
DR. FAUCI: Now give credit to President Biden where we can. He’s invested billions of dollars to get as low as 200 million [Covid] tests a month and as high as a half a billion tests a month. So the Fauci plea to flood the system with testing is going to happen for sure.