The One Thing Dr. Fauci Says He Still Won't Do After Getting Vaccinated

"I don't think we have a free pass for that right now," Fauci says.

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines have surpassed expectations for efficacy, but there are still questions left unanswered. Chiefly, experts still don't know whether the two emergency-approved vaccines merely prevent the development of COVID symptoms or fully thwart transmission, making it safe for vaccinated individuals to resume day-to-day activities. With that question mark dangling, White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, isn't willing to bet his family's safety on the latter possibility. Read on to see what the medical expert isn't doing even after both doses, and for more advice on the subject, check out Dr. Fauci Says Doing This After Getting Vaccinated Is a Huge Mistake.

When interviewed by NPR on Jan. 28, Fauci shared that though he has now been vaccinated, he has no plans to begin seeing his children more frequently or with fewer protective measures, in case he can in fact still infect others. NPR correspondent Sarah McCammon inquired about how Americans might plan for their own behavior and lifestyles to change after becoming vaccinated, as well as Fauci's own post-vaccination plans. "You've talked about your family on the show before. I wonder if you're feeling any more comfortable now seeing your daughters, for instance?" she asked.

Fauci, who famously skipped Christmas and Thanksgiving with his daughters for the first time in 30 years due to the pandemic, maintained that strict safety precautions will still be necessary even after getting both shots. "I don't think we have a free pass for that right now," he explained. "When you get vaccinated, you are protected 94 percent to 95 percent against clinical disease. But we're not sure if you're actually protected against asymptomatic infection. And that's the reason why we want to be careful and continue to wear a mask."

As Fortune explains, the question of infectiousness remains unanswered because of the breakneck speed of the vaccine testing process. Under a normal vaccine development timeline, both efficacy and transmissibility would be studied for a fuller understanding of a product's benefits. Given the expedited process of COVID vaccines, however, the data is more limited and will require more research. Until then, Fauci won't be taking any chances with his loved ones.

Looking for more wise words from Fauci? Read on for more insights from this latest interview, and for more positive news from the expert, check out Dr. Fauci Finally Has Some "Very Encouraging" News About COVID.

1
We may not be past the pandemic's peak.

Doctors and Nurses Taking Care of COVID Patients in ICU
iStock

Though case numbers are descending nationally, Fauci was hesitant to say we're necessarily past COVID's peak. "Even though you do see a diminution of cases, which we hope that those trends continue, but, you know, it is not guaranteed that that will happen," he explained.

"We have so many cases and such a degree of infection that even when it starts to plateau a bit, it's going to take quite a while before you start to see really things coming down," he said. Fauci later added, "Even though you do see a trend going in one direction, you've got to keep your eye on the ball because this is a very dynamic situation that's occurring." And for more on what numbers look like where you live, find out How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.

2
Two masks are better than one.

two blue surgical masks with ties for ear loops
Shutterstock/chuck hsu

When asked whether the government might officially recommend wearing two face masks at a time rather than one, Fauci responded that the current emphasis is on getting everyone to wear at least one mask.

However, he did share that he believes double masking makes good "common sense," given that it provides an additional physical barrier between the wearer and any potentially contaminated respiratory droplets that could spread the virus. And for more COVID news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

3
General vaccination and herd immunity could happen in a matter of months.

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When asked when we might expect to see some level of national herd immunity, which he's previously said will occur when about 85 percent of the population has been vaccinated, Fauci shared that he believes we should reach this point by "end of the summer" or "early fall."

According to his projected timeline, we can expect to start vaccinating the general population in the early spring: "I have said—and I believe it still holds true—that that likely will be in April," he said. And for more predictions from another expert, check out Moderna's Chief Medical Officer Just Gave This Upsetting Update.

4
But the South African strain could set things back.

A patient suffering from COVID-19 is cared for by a team of doctors and nurses in the ICU who are all wearing protective gear.
iStock

Fauci noted that we may also face setbacks arising from the new COVID variants. Though the NPR interview took place before the strain that originated in South Africa was found on U.S. soil, Fauci said that the South African variant is cause for "concern" because it may render the current vaccines less effective.

Thankfully, Fauci was reassuring that experts are already preparing for this possibility. "So what we want to do—and we're doing it—is to go ahead and make a version of the vaccine, which is not that difficult to do, that might serve as a boost to directly address the one in South Africa just in case that mutant does become dominant in the United States," he explained. And for more on where the variants are spreading, check out How Many Cases of the New COVID Strains Are in Your State.

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