Anthony Fauci Says COVID Vaccine May Make Life More Normal by Next Summer

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said life in the U.S. may approach some level of normality by next summer if most Americans get vaccinated.

Fauci made the comments in an interview hosted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He was asked how long people will need to keep up behaviors that prevent the spread of the coronavirus, such as wearing masks.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said it depends on how many people have a COVID vaccine. The current front runners for roll-out in the U.S. are Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine, which is said to be 95 percent effective in preventing COVID disease, Moderna's, which is over 94 percent effective.

With those rates of effectiveness, the U.S. "could approach some degree of normality that is close to where we were before" if 75 to 80 percent of the population are vaccinated by the end of summer, said Fauci.

He offered the caveat that if "only" 40 to 50 percent of people are immunized "it's going to take quite a while... to get to that blanket of herd immunity that's going to protect us enough so that you and I would feel comfortable in going out into society and saying the level of virus is so low it's not a threat to anyone."

Fauci, a top immunologist, used the term "herd immunity" in the traditional sense, where enough people are vaccinated against a disease that it prevents it from spreading. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the term has taken on new meaning to describe a controversial theory where the virus is allowed to spread among those not at serious risk of severe COVID-19. Like most experts, Fauci has previously said he views this new way of achieving herd immunity as "unacceptable."

Vaccines, he went on in the Harvard interview, should not be a substitute for public health measures, but a complement, as it is not yet clear if the vaccines prevent a person from spreading the virus, or how long they are protective.

"Wearing a mask, physical distancing, avoiding crowds—that should all stay as we get into the vaccine program. Because there's still a lot of virus out there," he said.

The NIAID director made the remarks the day that the U.S. recorded 3,053 deaths, breaking the record of 2,885 set a week before, according to The New York Times. The country also hit a new peak in hospitalizations, at 106,688, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

As it has done for months, the U.S leads the world in COVID cases and deaths, surpassing 15 million cases on Tuesday. More than 289,000 people have died.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House on November 19, in Washington, D.C. Fauci said life may feel closer to normal by next summer if the majority of Americans are vaccinated. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images