Right now, the United States has a reported 14 million COVID-19 cases, which is about 40,000 more cases than when the virus hit its first peak in the spring. And Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently said that the winter may be particularly dangerous and that by February 2021, the country could see up to 450,000 Americans dead from the virus, The New York Times reports.
One key difference between now and the early months of the pandemic in the U.S. is that there are several vaccines on the horizon, with up to 40 million doses potentially available through pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna by the end of the year. Those would likely go to health care workers and residents of nursing homes, as recommended by a scientific panel this week.
Perhaps the most immediate question on the minds of Americans is: When do we get vaccinated? The answer seems to be in 2021, likely in the spring months, after health care workers and those with conditions that place them at higher risk of the virus. But once we get there — especially among young, healthy people who are low-risk for COVID-19 — there's another, more philosophical question: Should I get vaccinated?
The answer, as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, put it to MTV News recently, is absolutely.
"A vaccine is good for you as an individual, but it's also good if you want to completely crush this outbreak the way we did with smallpox and polio and measles," Fauci said. "You want virtually everybody to get vaccinated, so it's almost a societal responsibility to do that."
He also stressed that he fully plans to be vaccinated once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives the call that it's safe to do so. "And I will recommend to my family, when their turn comes up, that they should take the vaccine."
Still, as the pandemic has changed our daily lives s completely — and as the rampant spread of misinformation recently prompted Facebook to begin removing false information about the vaccine — it may be hard to get on board with vaccination because of fears about safety. Fauci recognizes this, and he stressed that both the government and big businesses are removed from the process of monitoring the safety of the vaccine.
"The decision of whether or not a vaccine is judged to be safe and effective is really made by an independent body called the Data and Safety Monitoring Board that monitors the conduct of the trial and accumulates the data," Fauci said. That board is made up of "vaccinologists, immunologists, virologists, statisticians, and ethicists," he said, who see the data before the company does. The company then presents its information to the FDA — "the career scientists, not the politicians" — which ultimately makes a decision based on an independent advisory group.
In other words: "You can be guaranteed that this process was independent and was transparent," Fauci said, adding that the findings will also be published in a scientific journal.
Right now, researchers are currently testing 58 vaccines in clinical trials on humans, and we've heard about big potential success stories from Pfizer, Moderna, and more. So, when we're there, there may be confusion about which vaccine to actually take. Fauci had an answer for that, too.
"There will be recommendations likely that one vaccine might be better for maybe elderly individuals versus younger individuals versus individuals with underlying conditions. So it will be made clear that you would likely have a choice, just the way you have a choice with an influenza vaccine," he said. "But when there is information that one might be better for a certain demographic group, that will be made public so you can have an informed choice."
Watch Fauci's full interview with MTV News in the first video above.