This Is the One Thing Dr. Fauci Is "Not Confident" About With COVID

The doctor had this thoughtful response when asked about the future of coronavirus.

Anthony Fauci, MD, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is one of the most widely trusted voices of the coronavirus pandemic. That's why yesterday, when he gave a 45-minute interview with Ashish Jha, MD, the incoming dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, people were looking for more than sage health advice: they were looking for signs of optimism and hope. While Fauci shared invaluable insights about the state of the pandemic and possible paths forward, one thing he could not give was unbridled confidence—especially when it came to the question of whether we would have an effective vaccine in the near future.

Nearly halfway through the interview, Jha initiated the exchange with a question he said he is often asked, himself: "How confident are you that we are going to have a vaccine, let's say by the end of this year or by early next year?"

Ever the pragmatist, Fauci posited that "confidence" without data is essentially meaningless, so any confidence he could have in regards to something that has not yet been tested is purely speculative. "You should never feel confident when you're dealing with something that requires a randomized placebo-controlled trial to prove it," Fauci said. "You feel confident when you start to see the data come in… I'm not confident in guessing or surmising," he added.

While Fauci was hesitant to side with confidence, his prudence shouldn't be mistaken for pessimism. He shared that he feels "cautiously optimistic" about our chances of developing a vaccine in a timely manner, but stressed that confidence should be reserved for things that have successfully passed the testing stage with the data to back it up. (After all, that's the very reason that such rigorous testing is necessary.)

If not confident, Fauci has good reason to be optimistic for a timely vaccine. "When you look at the early response both in the animal data—but importantly in human Phase One—it induces a response with neutralizing antibodies that's at least as good, if not better, than the plasma of convalescent people," he said, referring to those who have already recovered from coronavirus.

True to form, he added with guarded enthusiasm: "it's a good start. Not a guarantee, Ashish, but it's a good start." And for more pearls of wisdom from Fauci's most recent interview, check out Dr. Fauci Says This Is How The U.S. Can Avoid a "Catastrophe" This Fall.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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