White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that convincing people who consider the coronavirus to be "fake news" to get vaccinated against the disease could become an issue as the nation seeks to achieve so-called herd immunity to suppress the pandemic.
"They actually don't think that this is a problem," Fauci said during a conversation with The Hastings Center. "Despite a quarter million deaths, despite more than 11 million infections, despite 150,000 new infections a day, they don't believe it's real. That is a real problem."
Fauci's comments with The Hastings Center are similar to those published in an interview with The New York Times on Thursday where the nation's leading infectious disease expert said he was "stunned" that people in certain parts of the country with devastating Covid-19 outbreaks still consider the pandemic to be fake.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has estimated that at least 75% of the country will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19, though ideally that figure would be higher. Those estimations come even as companies like Pfizer and Moderna report promising preliminary data showing their vaccines to be more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19.
"What I would like to see is the overwhelming majority of people get vaccinated so we can essentially really crush this outbreak," Fauci told The New York Times' DealBook conference Tuesday.
Fauci has reiterated that it will be a challenge to convince some Americans to receive a coronavirus vaccine. A new Gallup poll released Tuesday found that 58% of surveyed adults said they would get vaccinated once it's available. While that's an increase from findings in September, it's still lower than the 66% who said they would get inoculated earlier in the pandemic.
"If we have an effective vaccine and 50% of the people don't take it, you still have a considerable public health challenge," Fauci said Tuesday at the DealBook conference.
"Because the way you get an outbreak under control, to bring it down to such a minimal level it's no longer a threat, you have to have a blanket of protection over the community with the vaccine that is the overwhelming majority of the community," he said.
The Gallup survey, however, was conducted from Oct. 19 to Nov. 1, before Pfizer and Moderna released their promising vaccine results. Fauci has said he hopes more people will be willing to take the vaccines after they've proven to be highly effective.
Some Americans have shown concern about the historic speed with which the federal government, under the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, has developed and manufactured the vaccines. A CNBC poll in September also found that most voters were concerned that President Donald Trump was trying to rush the vaccine's approval process before the Nov. 3 Election Day.
"The speed itself is a reflection of scientific advances. In other words, the technology of making a vaccine is not your grandfather's technology. It's the 21st century technology," Fauci said Thursday.
Additionally, data from the vaccines' trials are evaluated by an external and independent data safety monitoring board that is "beholden to no one," Fauci said. Once the data is revealed to the drugmakers and other government agencies, it's presented to career scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval along with an independent Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, he said.
"By the time you get the FDA deeming that this is a safe and efficacious vaccine, you've had a independent and transparent process decide," Fauci said. "We've got to keep hammering that home because for the group of people who are concerned about the process, the process is sound."