Dr. Fauci Says Nurses are the, "Heroes of the Pandemic," and Responds To Nurse Questions
We all watched as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the NIAID and Lead Member of the Coronavirus Task Force received the COVID-19 vaccine on camera last week. And while millions of nurses have already received the COVID vaccine and many others are still waiting for their turn, plenty of nurses still have questions.
Nurses are not only healthcare providers who have tirelessly worked the frontlines of the pandemic; they are also healthcare consumers with valid questions about the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines that were recently approved for emergency use by the FDA.
Alice Benjamin, APRN, MSN, ACNS-BC, FNP-C, sat down with Dr. Anthony Fauci, on December 29 in an exclusive interview on Nurse.org’s Nurse News Now to address some of the most urgent questions currently being asked by the nursing community.
"Nurses Feel Left Out of The Conversation" - Here is Dr. Fauci's Response
In this short segment, Nurse Alice tells Dr. Fauci that "nurses have a felt left out of the conversation and a little under-appreciated, what would you like to say to the millions of nurses working in the trenches during this pandemic?"
"You are all the heroes of this outbreak, I don't think there's anyone that can have any appreciation of what goes on in the trenches without realizing that the extraordinary effort, courage, devotion, commitment of the nursing profession as well as other healthcare providers is absolutely essential to our response. And, everybody in the world needs to recognize the importance of what nurses do," Dr. Fauci responded.
We'll Soon Have 5 Vaccines Available
Dr. Fauci shares that there are several other vaccines in the works. In this clip he discusses how each of the following vaccines works,
- Pfizer - BioNTech
- Johnson and Johnson
Some of the other nurse-submitted questions that Dr. Fauci answered during the interview include,
Nurse Alice: Many of us have questions about the vaccine as well, especially pregnant people. How do we as nurses reconcile our own fears and concerns about the vaccine to then also present accurate information to the public?
Dr. Fauci: The issue with pregnant women and children and the vulnerability of those groups is that what one does with vaccine trials, with any vaccine, just not just COVID, is you do the trials with adults of various ages -- in this case with tens of thousands of people -- and once you show safety and efficacy in the trials, after a couple of months (in this vaccine, it will probably January and February), you do a Phase 1 and Phase 2A study to show safety and efficacy [on] pregnant women and children. So there’s a little bit of a delay, but ultimately, you do show safety and efficacy, in a trial, of the vaccine for pregnant women and children.
Nurse Alice: What other treatments are on the horizon to combat COVID-19?
Dr. Fauci: The two that have been given emergency authorization are the Moderna product and the Pfizer product, which are messenger RNA platforms. They are relatively new in the field of vaccinology, but they have been shown to be remarkably successful with an efficacy of around 94-95% in both with a good safety profile thus far.
Very close behind them are a number of candidates being supported by the federal government by Operation Warp Speed. For example, a product of Johnson & Johnson is an adenovirus vector. This is a product shown in other vaccines to be safe and effective. They are already fully enrolled in their Phase 3 trial and will likely be looking at data seriously and getting an answer sometime by the end of January/beginning of February, so they are pretty close behind.
Then there’s the AstraZeneca product, which is a chimpanzee adenovector; that’s already started a Phase 3 trial in the United States. Then there’s a company called Novavax, which [has a product] that’s actually a soluble protein together with an adjuvant.
So there are 5 products that are in play right now and hopefully, over the next few months, will get a signal of efficacy that is comparable to the very impressive positive signal that we’ve seen with Moderna and with Pfizer.
Nurse Alice: You’re not new to dealing with outbreaks, Dr. Fauci -- you were on the frontlines of the HIV and AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. But looking at everything that’s been going, what has been your biggest lesson from how COVID-19 has been handled in the U.S. and what would you do differently?
Dr. Fauci: I have been involved with the response to HIV since the very beginning, in 1981. It’s really fundamentally differently, because [AIDS is] a disease that very insidiously crept up on us, with recognition of a few cases in the summer of 1981 and then more and more and more, and then over a 39-year plus period, you see there have been over 70 million cases and about 35-37 million deaths. Even today, there are 7.1 new infections and 700,000 deaths every year, so it’s a problem that has been with us for a very long period of time with an impact that’s quite substantial.
With COVID-19, it’s just been a totally explosive outbreak that just really immobilized our world, our planet, in less than a year and it’s been extraordinarily devastating. As far as a respiratory pandemic outbreak, it’s the worst that we’ve seen in 102 years since the famous pandemic of 1917.
You could always look back and say we could have done things a bit differently. Things happened so quickly that our knowledge of what was going on was rapidly emerging...if we had known in March what we knew in January, we may have done things differently. For example, it was not completely appreciated that this virus could be spread from an asymptomatic person to an uninfected person. So, the kind of concentration was fundamentally on people with symptoms, when as a matter of fact, there were 40-45% of all infected people with no symptoms at all, spreading the infection under the radar screen. Had we known that, things may have been a little different.
Nurse Alice: There are over 4 million Registered Nurse and nearly 1 million LPNs in the U.S., and we have been working on the frontlines tirelessly, day and night, in this world pandemic, and sometimes, we’ve felt a little left out of the conversation or not as appreciated. What closing words would you have to the nurses who are still on the frontlines fighting COVID-19?
Dr. Fauci: I will say now what I say every single time we talk about the nurse profession and COVID and that is that you are all the heroes of this outbreak. I don't think there's anyone that can have any appreciation of what goes on in the trenches without realizing that the extraordinary effort, courage, devotion, commitment of the nursing profession, as well as other healthcare providers, is absolutely essential to our response. And, everybody in the world needs to recognize the importance of what nurses do.
My message is: we thank you for it, keep it up. This will end. I believe that vaccines, when they become more widely implemented, are going to put an end to this outbreak as we know it, so we hopefully will get back to a situation where you can take care of patients under much less pressure than you are forced to do right now.
Nurse Alice: Enrollment in nursing school and medical schools have been up –– it’s been attributed to the “Fauci Effect.” What do you say to something like that?
Dr. Fauci: It’s more than the Fauci Effect (laughs). It has a lot to do with what you are all doing –– it’s looking at all of the extraordinary things that people in the healthcare profession are doing right now; risking their lives and their health and their safety and that of their families to take care of individuals. It’s very inspirational and for that reason, I believe more people want to go to nursing school and more people want to go to medical school.
About Nurse News Now
Nurse News Now is a weekly live stream on Nurse.org’s social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram) featuring discussions led by our host, Nurse Alice, about trending topics that matter most to nurses. The live stream takes place every Tuesday at 6 pm PST/9 pm EST
All previous episodes are shared on the Nurse News Now webpage.
About Nurse Alice Benjamin
Alice Benjamin, APRN, MSN, ACNS-BC, FNP-C, also known as Nurse Alice, is a cardiac clinical nurse specialist and family nurse practitioner with over 23 years of healthcare experience. She is a community health activist and freelance media health expert with NBC.
About Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci, M.D., NIAID Director, has served as one of the lead members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, since January of 2020. He is an American physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. According to the New York Times, Dr. Fauci is one of the most trusted medical figures in the United States.
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