• Fauci says decisions about opening schools should be left to communities
  • Fauci says he expects tens of millions of doses of the vaccine to be available by the end of the year, but not the 300 million promised by the administration
  • Pfizer already has started manufacturing its most promising vaccine candidates

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said Friday it will be several months into 2021 before a coronavirus vaccine is “widely available” as companies and universities worldwide race to develop a means of stopping the pandemic.

In a Washington Post live question-and-answer session, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases said scientists still don’t know enough about the virus, which already has killed more than 144,500 Americans and more than 634,700 worldwide. He also talked about the idea of opening schools for the fall term.

“It is likely that at the beginning of next year we would have tens of millions of doses available,” Fauci said. “I think as we get into 2021, several months in, that you would have vaccines that would be widely available.”

The administration has been promising at least 300 million doses by January.

Pfizer said earlier this week it already had begun manufacturing its most promising vaccine candidates under a $1.95 billion contract with the U.S. government. AstraZeneca and Moderna also have said their vaccines are showing promise. Worldwide, some 150 vaccine candidates are under investigation.

Fauci said much more information is needed to determine how much protection the body’s immune response provides and how long it lasts.

“We are only six months into the outbreak,” he said. “Since we are only six months into it, we don’t know how long [antibodies] last in most of the people. But the fact is ... that there are some people where antibodies only last a short period of time. We need to know what that means.”

“Again, we are learning as the weeks and months go by, but we don’t have all the information that we need,” he said.

Fauci said the decision on whether to open schools should be left to each community.

“It depends on where you are,” Fauci said. “We live in a very large country that is geographically and demographically diverse and certainly different in the extent to which there is COVID virus activity.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Thursday issued revised guidelines for reopening schools, noting death rates for children from COVID-19 are much lower than those for adults and emphasizing the benefits of sending children to school. President Trump had called the initial guidelines too strict and too expensive. The Post reported the new guidelines were written by the White House, not CDC experts.

On other matters, Fauci, who often corrected misinformation dispensed by President Trump, said he had received “serious threats” against himself and the lives of loved ones, and urged states hit by the surge in cases to roll back reopenings.

“You don’t necessarily have to go all the way back to a complete shutdown, but you certainly have to call a pause and maybe even a backing up a bit,” he said.

In an earlier interview with MarketWatch, Fauci said he's not taking any plane trips or eating in restaurants until the virus is under control.