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Transcript: Dr. Anthony Fauci on "Face the Nation," August 15, 2021

Fauci says COVID-19 surges "entirely preventable"
Fauci says COVID-19 surges "entirely preventable," urges vaccinations 07:04

The following is a transcript of an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, that aired on Sunday, August 15, 2021, on "Face the Nation."

NANCY CORDES: We want to go now to President Biden's chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Fauci, good morning to you. 


NANCY CORDES: You heard the numbers in Mark's piece, they are horrific. I want to start with the very dire situation in the south, particularly in Mississippi, where cases have risen by more than 2000% in the past month. Medical officials there say that the state's largest hospital system could fail within days. What is the federal government doing to help states like Mississippi and Louisiana?

DR. FAUCI: Well, with regard to the immediate they're sending- we're sending surge teams to help with the actual implementation of the immediate response, and that's FEMA, that's CDC people. That's people from the assistant secretary for Preparedness and Response to help setting up to provide some treatment like monoclonal antibodies to help with the hospital situation. That's the immediate thing. But, you know, as- as- as you know, NANCY, as we've discussed many, many times, all of this is entirely predictable. And yet, on the other hand, entirely preventable. We've got to get people vaccinated. We have about 90 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated, who are not vaccinated. And that's very highly concentrated in the southern states, including Mississippi and other states in which you have, compared to the general average of vaccinations in the country, an under vaccinated group. And those are the people in whom the outbreak with a highly, highly transmissible Delta variant is spreading. And it's really tragic because we're seeing a lot of people get seriously ill. And as you've shown, the hospitalizations are on the brink of actually overrunning the hospitals, particularly intensive care units.

NANCY CORDES : And we are seeing some encouraging numbers when it comes to vaccinations from these Gulf states. The rates of vaccination tripling, even quadrupling over the past couple of weeks. And, you know, I know we're very focused on the South right now, but you're looking at the data from across the country. What's coming next?

DR. FAUCI: Well, what's coming next is that we are going to have to continue to get people vaccinated so that right now, even in states in which you have a good relative proportion of people vaccinated, you have to get the overwhelming proportion of people vaccinated. But you also have to do mitigation. And that gets to the controversial issue of mask wearing and the mandating of things mandating of vaccines, for example, for teachers and people in the personnel in the school, but also in situations as uncomfortable as we know and controversial as we know it is with regard to masks wearing, particularly in the situation in schools, we've just got to realize that we're dealing with a public health crisis. And the more you get infections, the more spread you get, the greater opportunity the virus has to continue to evolve and mutate. Right now, we are fortunate, NANCY, in that the vaccines that we have are quite good against the Delta variant, particularly with regard to preventing severe disease with hospitalizations and deaths. We certainly are getting what are called breakthrough infections, which means a person who was vaccinated might get infected and actually may even spread the virus. But in general, those people are not the ones who are getting seriously ill and dying. It's the unvaccinated that are doing that. So we have a lot of tasks. We've got to do mitigation, put aside all of these issues of concern about liberties and personal liberties and realize we have a common enemy and that common enemy is the virus. And we really have to all pull together to get on top of this. Otherwise, we're going to continue to suffer as we're seeing right now.

NANCY CORDES: You know, you brought up the efficacy of the vaccines. I want to ask you about this new study out of Minnesota that suggested that the Moderna vaccine is actually more effective against the Delta variant than the Pfizer vaccine. Does this study indicate that if and when people do have to get booster shots, that they should go ahead and get a Moderna shot even if they got Pfizer the first time around?

DR. FAUCI: No, NANCY, not at all, because that study, first of all, is a pre-print study, it hasn't been fully peer reviewed. I don't doubt what they're seeing, but there are a lot of confounding variables in there about when one was started, the relative amount of people in that cohort, that's Delta versus Alpha. Right now, if we get booster's, you know, we're talking about boosters. We already implemented booster's for the immune compromised. It's clear we want to make sure we get people, if possible, to get the boost from the original vaccine that they had. But remember, the original dose of the Moderna is about three times what the dose of the Pfizer is. So you may have a difference in durability, but in general, the vaccines that have been approved for emergency use authorization and hopefully will be approved for a full authorization in the sense of actual approval, hopefully that comes very soon are all really highly effective in preventing severe disease.

NANCY CORDES: You mentioned boosters for the immunocompromised. How soon will those people who are at greatest risk actually be able to get those boosters? And there's also some reporting about your administration actually starting to look ahead and plan for giving boosters to people in nursing homes or in health care settings in the fall. What can you tell us about that?

DR. FAUCI: Well, NANCY, there- there are two issues there, and you did quite right to separate the two because the issue with the immunocompromised, people who are on chemotherapy for cancer, people with transplantations, advanced HIV disease, immunosuppressive they're there right now. They can get their boost literally right now. What we are planning for and looking ahead, even though we are not saying that other people who are not immune compromised be the elderly or people who are actually not elderly, they may need ultimately to get an additional shot. Right now, we're not saying they do, but literally, NANCY, we're looking at it on a daily and weekly basis in cohorts not only in the United States, but in other countries to determine if, when and to whom we should be giving this. So if it turns out as the data come in, we see we do need to give an additional dose to people in nursing homes, actually, or people who are elderly, we will be absolutely prepared to do that very quickly.

NANCY CORDES: Got it. All right. Well, we'll be watching for that. Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

DR. FAUCI: Thank you for having me.

NANCY CORDES: And FACE THE NATION. will be back in one minute. Stay with us.

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