Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, rolled up his sleeve on Tuesday to receive a dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, saying he wanted to reassure Americans that the treatment was safe and to encourage them to get it themselves.
Fauci was inoculated along with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and other NIH Clinical Center frontline health workers at the facility in Bethesda, Md.
Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said his reasons for getting the vaccine were twofold.
“One is that I’m an attending physician here on the staff at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. And so I do see patients,” he said as he took a seat to receive the shot.
“But as important, or more important, is as a symbol to the rest of the country that I feel extreme confidence in the safety and the efficacy of this vaccine and I want to encourage everyone who has the opportunity to get vaccinated so that we can have a veil of protection over this country, that would end this pandemic,” he said.
After getting the shot in his left arm, Fauci, who turns 80 on Thursday, gave a thumbs-up sign.
Azar, who got his shot moments before Fauci, gave a nod to the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed “for bringing us to this point where now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel from this dark period.”
Both Azar and Fauci wore masks as they were inoculated.
“What we’re seeing now is the culmination of years of research, which have led to a phenomenon that has truly been unprecedented. And that is to go from the realization that we’re dealing with a new pathogen, a virus that was described in January of this year, to less than one year later to have vaccines that are going into the arms of so many people, including myself,” Fauci said in remarks shortly before he received the vaccination.
“So I consider it an honor to be part of this process,” he added.
Azar said the development of a safe and effective vaccination so quickly was “nothing short of miraculous” and thanked those who were on the forefront of the effort.
“When we need a medical miracle, we know where to look. We look to the brilliant, dedicated scientists at the NIH, and we look to passionate relentless researchers at America’s innovative biotech companies,” he said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, prepares to receive his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, in Bethesda, Md. AP
“As a member of the HHS family, it fills me with great pride that the NIH and other parts of HHS played such a significant role in developing this vaccine, which will save thousands and thousands of lives that help bring this dark chapter to an end,” Azar said. “In the long and storied history of the NIH, this is one of your finest accomplishments.”
The Food and Drug Administration approved the Moderna vaccine on Friday, making it the second approved inoculation for the global pandemic.
An earlier vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech was approved by the FDA on Dec 11.
President-elect Joe Biden and incoming first lady Jill Biden received the vaccine on live television on Monday at ChristianaCare Wilmington Hospital in Delaware.
Vice President Mike Pence received the first round of shots last week, but doctors have recommended that President Trump hold off for now.