Fauci says goodbye with one last request: get vaccinated

His message on Tuesday – encouragement for vaccination and vigilance against a virus that is still killing about 300 Americans a day — offered critics and supporters a taste of what made Fauci, a career civil servant, a household name.

For some, his direct speech about how Americans should deal with an unprecedented public health emergency made him a folk hero, spawning a range of merchandise from oven mitts to bobble-head dolls. To others, his push for mitigation measures such as vaccines, masks and social distancing that meant closing schools and businesses made him a villain, and he has faced scathing criticism, death threats and conspiracy theories about his role in the origins of Covid-19 .

This rhetoric, cruded by former President Donald Trump, made vaccines a party issue for Biden White House officials are still struggling that only a fraction of eligible Americans have received the updated bivalent Covid-19 booster.

“As a doctor, it pains me because I don’t want to see anyone get infected,” Fauci said. “I don’t want anyone to be hospitalized and I don’t want anyone to die from Covid. Whether you are a far-right Republican or a far-left Democrat makes no difference to me.”

His farewell was interrupted several times when a reporter at the back of the briefing room roared down her colleagues, demanding to know what Fauci had personally done to investigate the origins of the virus, which eventually led White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to do so prompted to intervene.

Fauci remained unresponsive, sticking to the message he’s been hammering home for months: He urged people to get the updated Covid booster shot ahead of the colder months, when public health officials expect a surge in new infections pick up.

“Immunity and protection wear off over time,” he said, trying to counteract skepticism from people who don’t see the need for a third, fourth, or fifth shot. “They need to update protection, which we know is good protection.”

As the holidays approach, the nation is staring in the face of what many have warned could be a “triple pandemic”: hospitals are grappling with an unprecedented wave of pediatric respiratory viruses, flu cases are surging and a surge in Covid-19 19 cases suggests a possible increase as new variants circulate.

The sluggish pace of vaccinations for both Covid-19 and the flu in recent weeks has frustrated Biden health officials, who have bemoaned the fact that hundreds of people are still dying every day, in large part due to skepticism about the updated due to vaccinations. There are also growing fears that the combination of Covid-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus, which has surged in young children this fall, will take an outsized toll on the country’s overworked health workforce – laying the groundwork for overworked hospitals and an early shift in care lays next year.

The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it would begin a “six-week sprint” to encourage more Americans to receive the updated intake before the end of the year, with a focus on reaching seniors and communities that are strongest are affected by the pandemic.

The government said it is sending $350 million in new funding to community health centers to set up pop-up and mobile vaccination sites and $125 million to make the vaccine available to older Americans and people with disabilities.

CMS is also reminding care homes that they have an obligation to educate residents and offer vaccines, and HHS will launch an advertising campaign encouraging seniors to speak with providers about finding treatment for Covid-19.

Biden officials have spent the past few weeks scouring the health department for what little funding is available to deliver the post-Thanksgiving vaccination boost. Earlier this month, the administration requested more financing by Congress to stay ahead of a possible winter spike, but Republicans have said its inclusion in a year-end spending package is unlikely.

Officials have also tried to highlight evidence the latest boost offers far more protection against serious diseases, senior administration officials told POLITICO.

A to learn The study, published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that the updated mRNA booster provided “significant additional protection” against symptomatic Covid-19 in people who received the original mRNA vaccines.

While the data is limited, it builds on more robust studies from Pfizer and Moderna that suggest Americans who receive the updated vaccine are better protected from Covid heading into a winter.

“We can essentially prevent every Covid death in America,” said Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, who also spoke at the briefing. “This is a remarkable fact, 2½ years after we first found this virus in our country. But it will take all of us to achieve that.”

“I have no problem testifying”

Although this was likely Fauci’s last appearance at a White House press briefing, there’s still a chance he will attend at least one more Covid briefing, officials said. Aides are also considering holding a larger “goodbye” event in December that would specifically focus on Fauci’s departure from the administration.

Fauci has emphasized that he is not retiring but is moving on to a different phase in his career. He has remained silent about his future plans, officials said, to focus the focus on the administration’s outstanding work and minimize the risk of giving Republicans new reasons to push him back into the limelight.

He may not be able to avoid it. House Republicans have said exercising their new oversight powers to investigate the Biden administration’s Covid-19 response will be a priority in the new Congress, and they have pledged To hold Fauci “accountable for concealing the truth behind the origins of Covid-19”.

Fauci told POLITICO In an interview this summer, he said he was prepared for the attacks that could come in a Republican-controlled House, but insisted it wasn’t part of his retirement calculus.

“They’re going to try to come after me anyway,” he said. “I don’t think they can say anything about the science. … If you want to investigate this, be my guest. If I tell someone that it is important to follow basic public health good practices… what will you investigate on that?”

He confirmed this impression on Tuesday. “If there are oversight hearings, I will definitely cooperate fully and testify before Congress if asked to do so,” he said. “I’ve testified about a couple of hundred times over the last 40 years, so I have no problem testifying. We can defend anything, explain anything and stand by anything we said.”

Looking back on his time helping to respond to the US pandemic, Fauci said that in early 2020 he never imagined he or the nation would face a “three-year saga of suffering and death” like this would kill many Americans, and cited the evolving variants as one of the trickiest elements to navigate.

At the same time, he said Covid-19 while “really, really very important” is just a “fragment” of the decades he’s spent in public service.

“I let other people judge the value of my accomplishments or not,” he said. “But I want people to remember what I’ve done, that over the years I’ve given everything I have every day and I’ve never left anything on the field. So if they want to remember me – whether they are right or wrong in judging what I did – I gave everything I got for many decades.”

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