Dr Anthony Fauci, the US health official celebrated and vilified as the face of the country’s Covid-19 pandemic response, used his final White House briefing on Tuesday to denounce division and promote vaccines.
Fauci, who plans to retire soon as President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser and top US infectious disease official, has dealt with the thorny questions around health crises from HIV/Aids to avian flu and Ebola.
But it was his handling of Covid-19 and his blunt assessments from the White House podium that Americans needed to change their behaviour in light of the pandemic that made him a hero to public health advocates while serving under former president Donald Trump, a villain to some on the right and an unusual celebrity among bureaucratic officials used to toiling in obscurity. Fauci has regularly been subjected to death threats for his efforts.
True to form, Fauci used his final press briefing to strongly encourage Americans to get Covid vaccines and booster shots, and touted the effectiveness of masks, all of which became partisan totems in the US.
After 13 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines given worldwide, Fauci said there is “clearly an extensive body of information” that indicates that they are safe.
When I see people in this country because of the divisiveness in our country … not getting vaccinated for reasons that have nothing to do with public health, but have to do because of divisiveness and ideological differences, as a physician, it pains me,” Fauci said.
“I don’t want to see anybody hospitalised, and I don’t want to see anybody die from Covid. Whether you’re a far-right Republican or a far-left Democrat, doesn’t make any difference to me,” he said.
White House Covid response coordinator, Dr Ashish Jha, who joined Fauci at the podium, said the administration is trying to promote physicians as sources of information about the pandemic rather than uninformed voices.
In other news – Power unavailable in Lviv due to ongoing conflict in Ukraine
After major strikes were reported throughout Ukraine, including in the capital Kyiv, the whole city of Lviv in western Ukraine is currently without electricity.
Andriy Sadovy, the mayor of Lviv, urged residents to seek refuge because “the entire city is without electricity. Learn more