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Dr. Fauci Says First Vaccine Will Not Kill Virus

The release of a vaccine won't automatically end the coronavirus crisis.
Nurse checking a vial of medicine.

Everyone is eagerly awaiting the release of a coronavirus vaccine, hoping it will eradicate the virus and restart the pace of normal life.

Not so fast, suggested Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, on Monday. He said the vaccines that are currently being developed are designed to prevent symptoms, not kill the virus. Read on for more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

What did Dr. Fauci say about the vaccine?

"The primary thing you want to do is that if people get infected, prevent them from getting sick, and if you prevent them from getting sick, you will ultimately prevent them from getting seriously ill," said Fauci at a Yahoo Finance event on Monday.

"If the vaccine also allows you to prevent initial infection, that would be great," he added. "But what I would settle for, and all of my colleagues would settle for, is the primary endpoint to prevent clinically recognizable disease."

Fauci has previously said he would like to see a coronavirus vaccine that is 70% to 75% effective, but the first vaccine may only be 50% to 60% effective. This incomplete protection, coupled with the reluctance of many Americans to get the first version of the vaccine, means the vaccine alone may not end the crisis. 

Face masks: Here to stay for a while

Fauci and other health officials have warned that even after a vaccine is released, Americans may need to continue with some current public health measures (such as wearing face masks and social distancing) to protect themselves for a while.

"Face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have," said Robert Redfield, the head of the CDC, in September. "I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine … When I take a COVID vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70%, and if I don't get an immune response to the vaccine, it's not going to protect me. This face mask will."

Four vaccines in final-stage studies

Four companies have developed coronavirus vaccines that are now in final trials: AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Pfizer may be able to report on its vaccine's effectiveness by the second half of November. If all goes well, it could receive emergency use authorization by the end of the year.

Some companies in the UK are conducting "challenge trials," which intentionally infect participants with a virus to see how effective a potential vaccine is at combating it. But Fauci said that because coronavirus infection is so widespread in the US, the general public is the best study sample.

"Although you can get some good information from a challenge trial, the real-world information that you want is out in the field when someone is actually being exposed to natural infection, and to determine if the vaccine prevents against that," Fauci said. "Right now, we're not planning any challenge studies because we have so much infection going on."

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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