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Best Way to "Eliminate" COVID? It's This, Says Dr. Fauci

And what the next generation of COVID vaccines will need to do.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab
Director Of Nat'l Institute of Allergy And Infectious Diseases Discusses Global Health Threats

It's "entirely conceivable" that COVID-19 won't be eradicated, and the coronavirus will become a constant threat that requires regular vaccine boosters to control, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, on Thursday. "When you have infectious diseases, the three ways you go at them are that you can control them, you can eliminate them, or you can eradicate them," said Fauci on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, adding, "It is unlikely that we will eradicate this, at least not in the near future," because the coronavirus is so widespread. Read on, and to stay safe, remember: You "Should Not Get" COVID Vaccine If You Have This Condition, Says CDC.

Next COVID vaccines will need to be broader

"You can possibly eliminate it if, in fact, you get the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated, and you do get this umbrella of herd immunity," said Fauci. "One of the stumbling blocks to that is that this is a global pandemic. So unless you essentially equally suppress it throughout the world, or if you have places in the world where it still is pretty much doing its thing without any control, you will always have the danger."

Fauci said that unless and until most people in the world are vaccinated, he foresees periods where booster shots will be necessary in the United States. "Either boosting them with the original vaccine, which gives you enough antibody to spill over to the variants, or develop a vaccine that's specific for one or more of the variants," he said. "The only trouble with the latter is that you may find yourself playing Whack-a-Mole with the variants, because we have a lot of different variants."

Health officials are currently tracking coronavirus variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, along with at least two variants that developed in the U.S., one from New York City and one from California. Some of these variants have shown signs of being more contagious, more deadly, and potentially able to make current vaccines less effective.

"What you really need to do is to get a vaccine that's potent enough and broad enough that it will overlap all of the other variants," said Fauci. "You can give that a name, more of a universal SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. That's what we're aiming at, so that we don't have to be repetitive every year, coming back to chase after these variants."

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Just Said This is the Best Vaccine to Get

How to survive this pandemic

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face 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.