White House infectious disease expert 'confident' Covid-19 vaccine will be found

23 June 2020, 19:39

Dr Anthony Fauci is the US government's top infectious disease expert
Dr Anthony Fauci is the US government's top infectious disease expert. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The US government's top infectious disease expert said he believes "it will be when and not if" there will be a Covid-19 vaccine and that he remains "cautiously optimistic" that one will be ready at the end of the year.

Dr Anthony Fauci returned to Capitol Hill at a fraught moment in the nation's pandemic response, with coronavirus cases rising in about half the states and political polarisation competing for attention with public health recommendations.

Dr Fauci was giving evidence on Tuesday along with the heads of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Since Dr Fauci's last appearance at a high-profile hearing more than a month ago, the US has been emerging from weeks of stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns.

But it is being done in an uneven way, with some states far less cautious than others.

A trio of states with Republican governors who are bullish on reopening, Arizona, Florida and Texas, are among those seeing worrisome increases in cases.

Last week, Vice President Mike Pence published an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal saying the administration's efforts have strengthened the nation's ability to counter the virus and should be "a cause for celebration".

Then President Donald Trump said at his weekend rally in Tulsa that he had asked administration officials to slow down testing, because too many positive cases are turning up.

Donald Trump said he wants to "slow down testing"
Donald Trump said he wants to "slow down testing". Picture: PA

Many rally goers did not wear masks, and for some that was an act of defiance against what they see as government intrusion.

White House officials later tried to downplay Mr Trump's comment on testing, suggesting it was not meant to be taken literally.

Mr Trump, departing the White House for a visit to Arizona on Tuesday, minimised the comments, saying under his administration the US is doing more testing than any other country.

Mr Trump's trip includes a rally at a megachurch.

Dr Fauci has recently warned that the US is still in the first wave of the pandemic and has continued to urge the American public to practice social distancing.

And, in a recent ABC News interview, he said political demonstrations such as protests against racial injustice are "risky" to all involved.

Asked if that applied to Trump rallies, he said it did.

Dr Fauci continues to recognise widespread testing as critical for catching clusters of Covid-19 cases before they turn into full outbreaks in a given community.

About 2.3 million Americans have been sickened in the pandemic, and some 120,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.