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Fauci addresses vaccine hesitancy in some communities; early COVID recommendations

Dr. Anthony Fauci and White House COVID Advisor Dr. Cameron Webb addressed the NABJ Convention
Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 8:51 PM CDT
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Dr. Anthony Fauci talks COVID-1 during the virtual NABJ Convention on August 19, 2021
Dr. Anthony Fauci talks COVID-1 during the virtual NABJ Convention on August 19, 2021(Source: National Association of Black Journalists)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says reservations some communities have about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 should be respected but he added that they also need to be provided accurate information.

Fauci and Dr. Cameron Webb, Senior Policy Advisor for COVID-19 Equity on the White House COVID-19 Response Team addressed the National Association of Black Journalists which is meeting virtually due to the ongoing pandemic.

The White House continues its efforts aimed at getting more people vaccinated including minorities. According to the CDC, 51% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated and blacks account for 9.2% of the total number of people who are fully vaccinated, Hispanics 16% and whites 59.2%.

Dr. Ian Smith, a TV host, posed questions to Faulk and Webb during the NABJ seminar.

“We now have to figure out how do we communicate this message to particularly underserved and minority communities who were not getting vaccinated at the right rate, who weren’t having, they didn’t have resources allocated to them correctly,” said Smith.

And according to data on the Louisiana Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, of the vaccine series completed, 29.5% are blacks and 58% are whites.

African Americans were hard hit by the novel coronavirus early in the pandemic.

Webb says it is important to have trusted local messengers disseminate information about the three authorized vaccines.

“I actually worked in the hospital over the weekend, this past weekend admitting COVID patients into the hospital and none of those patients were asking me should I use Dexamethasone or should I use Remdesivir, they said doc let me know what to do and you know, that’s very different than what happens when I’m wearing a suit, sitting in Washington D.C. and I say this is what we need to do because again I lose that status as local messenger,” Webb said.

Fauci said the questions of the vaccine-hesitant should be addressed without condemnation.

“One other thing I think is important that I have found, particularly among the African American and to some extent the Hispanic community also is that the reservations that they have you’ve got to respect those reservations and not make it seem like, what are you talking about, why don’t you want to do it? Because their questions are absolutely valid, historically, and otherwise,” he said.

Webb agrees.

“So, I think that our goal is to stop and engage communities and say, this is what we know, this is what we know, this is what we don’t know, let me hear your questions and I’ll answer them with the current understanding of the science,” stated Webb.

Fauci urged journalists to keep providing accurate information to the public.

“The best way to counter misinformation and disinformation is to flood the system with correct information,” he said.

Fauci was asked what could have been done differently early in the pandemic.

“So, if there was anything that if we had to go back and do differently and knew about the incredible capability to both transmit as well as to do it in a very insidious way we probably would have called for things that now thinking about it likely would not have been accepted by our society because can you imagine me getting in front of the TV and saying we have one documented case and we have a few that we think are community spread, (A) you got to shut down the country and (B) everybody’s got to wear a mask they would have thought I was crazy but retrospectively Ian it was a mistake not to do that,” he said.

Republicans in Congress and others have sharply criticized Fauci over his early advice that the general public did not need to wear masks.

Fauci said during his remarks to NABJ that information about the virus changed quickly early in the pandemic.

“When this was thrust upon us in the very beginning there was the evolution of information that kept on changing understandably, first we thought it was jumping from species and didn’t do very well human-to-human, then we found out it did do well from human-to-human and then we found out that it was very, very highly transmissible,” said Fauci.

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