KEY POINTS

  • Fauci cautioned any coronavirus vaccine will not have a high-efficacy, saying the highest effective vaccine doctors are hoping for is 75%
  • The Food and Drug Administration has only approved vaccines for trials with a minimum efficacy of 50%
  • Fauci said the public should continue practices proven to help prevent the spread of coronavirus even after a vaccine is ready for public use

While speaking during an online seminar, White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci warned the chances of a high-efficacy vaccine for coronavirus being created was "extremely slim."

“The chances of it being 98% effective is not great, which means you must never abandon the public health approach,” Fauci said during the Brown University webinar. “You’ve got to think of the vaccine as a tool to be able to get the pandemic to no longer be a pandemic, but to be something that’s well controlled.”

Fauci and the Food and Drug Administration have previously said 50% efficacy is the minimum goal for any vaccine deemed safe for public use. FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said any vaccines authorized for trials in July met that 50% minimum, with some reportedly being 60% effective.

“We all want a vaccine tomorrow. That’s unrealistic. And we all want a vaccine that’s 100% effective. Again, unrealistic,” Hahn told the Journal of the American Medical Association on July 30. “But we said 50%, and the reason was because we felt that that was a reasonable floor given the pandemic.”

“But for the most part, I think, infectious disease experts have agreed that that’s a reasonable floor, of course hoping that the actual effectiveness will be higher.”

Fauci said the highest the medical community is hoping to develop a vaccine with is 75% efficacy. Even after the vaccines are deemed safe and ready for distribution, Fauci emphasized the public should continue practices that have been found to help reduce the risk of infection and spread.

“Universal wearing of a mask, physical distancing, avoid crowds, outdoor better than indoor, washing your hands and hand hygiene -- and if you're in a situation where it applies to you, stay away from bars,” Fauci said.

He acknowledged the split that has occurred when it comes to wearing face masks and reopening the country but said the two were not meant to be opposing forces. Instead, masks were meant to help ensure reopening went safely and helped contain the spread of coronavirus.

“We really need to get that point across, that one is not the enemy of the other. One is a gateway to get to the other,” Fauci said. “I don't think we need to go into the fall and the winter thinking we're going to have a catastrophe. We could go into the fall and the winter, coming out of it looking good, if we do certain things.”

Anthony Fauci, who was asked during a Congressional hearing whether the US could make use of Chinese or Russian vaccines if they arrived first, indicated that was unlikely Anthony Fauci, who was asked during a Congressional hearing whether the US could make use of Chinese or Russian vaccines if they arrived first, indicated that was unlikely Photo: Pool / KEVIN DIETSCH