The federal government does not require COVID-19 vaccinations, but Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday he welcomes mandates at the local level, particularly once the Food and Drug Administration grants the shots a full license instead of relying on an emergency authorization.
“At the local level, there should be more mandates,” Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’ve lost 600,000 Americans already.”
He didn’t specify which entities should push the vaccines, but the White House has taken a hands-off approach to colleges and businesses that decide to require the shots for their employees.
Former Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who served in the Obama administration, and others say it’s time to stop beating around the bush and require the shots in more places.
Less than half of the U.S. population — roughly 48% — is fully vaccinated, though experts say 70%-90% is needed to truly wrangle the pathogen as fast-moving variants offer new peril.
Dr. Fauci said he thinks mandates will arrive once the FDA finishes its review of applications for a full biologics license. The vaccines are being administered under an emergency-use authorization that says the benefits outweigh any risks.
“People need to understand the amount of [existing] data — that shows a high degree of effectiveness and high degree of safety — is more than we’ve ever seen with an emergency authorization,” Dr. Fauci said.
The full review may take a while longer, but “it’s as good as done. People should understand that,” Dr. Fauci said.
In the meantime, Dr. Fauci said the government is relying on trusted messengers — doctors, clergy and sports figures — to highlight in a “non-fingerpointing way” why it is important to get protected.
He told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “99.5% of all of the deaths are among unvaccinated people.”
The doctor bemoaned the political divide among people who are opting for protection from the vaccines. Counties that voted for President Biden have better vaccination rates overall than those that backed former President Donald Trump.
“I really don’t have a good explanation for why this is happening. It’s ideological rigidity, I think,” Dr. Fauci said. “Vaccinations have nothing to do with politics. The virus doesn’t know if you’re a Democrat, a Republican or an independent.”
He said it was “almost frightening” to see a panelist at the Conservative Political Action Conference deride the government for thinking it could “sucker” 90% of the U.S. population into getting vaccinated.
“It’s horrifying,” Dr. Fauci said. “I just don’t get that.”
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