HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – He’s been said to be one of the most trusted medical experts in the country. Now, Dr. Anthony Fauci is asking those in the Commonwealth to trust the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine.
“If we want to crush this outbreak, we’ve got to get the overwhelming majority of the United States population to get vaccinated, including - and I might say specifically - Black and brown people,” Dr. Fauci said.
The top infectious diseases doctor joined Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) and community members in a virtual discussion Friday to unravel misinformation about the vaccine that may be circulating across neighborhoods, particularly among communities of color where there is data of health disparities.
Dr. Fauci said the pandemic has disproportionately impacted Blacks and Latinos partly because their jobs are more likely to have close interactions with others.
“You’re more likely going to be seriously ill, hospitalized, intensive care and death,” he said.
Friday’s webinar comes the same day COVID-19 cases hit record highs across Hampton Roads, with Virginia Beach seeing more than 500 new infections.
“This global pandemic is the worst the world has seen in 102 years,” Dr. Fauci said. “Unfortunately for us here in the U.S., we are the worst hit country in the world.”
The governor echoed Fauci’s message that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, and urged people to get their shot when their time comes despite the painful history of government mistrust.
“I know many people are wary because of the past racist experiments to medical practices done on our two people of color,” said Northam. “I understand that. I can’t change the past, but I can say we are working hard to earn trust in diverse communities."
Northam said the COVID-19 vaccine is key to controlling the virus.
"The vaccine is the way to stop this virus,” he said. “It's our path forward to recovery, and it's the clearest way we're going to get back to something that feels like normal."
Until a majority of people are vaccinated, Fauci said people should follow CDC health guidelines.
“Until we get the overwhelming majority of the population in this country - and I would say 70 to 85% - to get good herd immunity, there still will be the danger lurking in the community about transmitting viruses," he said.
Dr. Fauci believes once herd immunity is reached, normal human interaction can resume in the fall of 2021.
During the virtual discussion, Northam announced the state is ramping up vaccination efforts, setting a goal of distributing 25,000 COVID-19 vaccines every day. That number is expected to increase as more supplies become available.