December 16, 2021
Suzanne P. Clark
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
This December marks one year since the first COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States. The efficient rollout and proven safety of the coronavirus vaccine have made it possible for the country to begin the process of reopening and recovery. Yet despite this incredible milestone, there are still challenges on the horizon, from the emergence of the highly contagious Omicron variant to the resurgence of Delta.
Fortunately, the U.S. is much better equipped to handle these new challenges today than it was prior to the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. To shed light on the state of the pandemic and the path forward for 2022 and beyond, Dr. Anthony Fauci shared his insights and expertise during the latest Path Forward event from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Amid Delta Resurgence and Omicron Emergence, Vaccination Is More Critical than Ever
As current COVID-19 transmission levels have been designated as “high” across a majority of states, Dr. Fauci explained that “what you see on the map [is] more than 90%, probably around 95% Delta.”
The resurgence of Delta, paired with the emergence of the Omicron variant, makes vaccinating the unvaccinated — as well as boosting those who have already been fully vaccinated — more critical than ever.
“[Omicron] is the most transmissible virus of COVID that we have had to deal with thus far,” stressed Dr. Fauci. “It has [also] been shown to evade certain immune parameters, such as monoclonal antibodies … [and] the antibodies that are induced by vaccination lose much of their potency.”
“The somewhat encouraging news is that when you boost someone who’s been doubly vaccinated, you can reconstitute a lot of that diminished protection that occurs because of Omicron,” he added. “It may not protect much against infection, but it will go a long way to protect against severe disease.”
Omicron’s Impact on Business Will Depend on Adherence to CDC Guidelines
When asked whether the Omicron variant will force businesses to close or limit operations, Dr. Fauci noted it was “a difficult call to make.”
“It’s going to really depend on how well we do the interventions,” he said. “If we follow the CDC guidelines about [mask-wearing] even if you are vaccinated, [getting] boosted when your time comes and [getting] vaccinated … I don’t believe we’ll have to do any kind of shutdown.”
Employers may also have concerns about how to talk to their employees, especially with respect to engaging with the information and misinformation about COVID-19 and the coronavirus vaccine.
“The only way we can think of countering misinformation and disinformation is by literally flooding the system with correct information,” Dr. Fauci emphasized. “Talk about what the real true information is, and put aside and debunk those theories about safety and inefficacy of vaccines, which are completely untrue.”
The United States Has a Societal and Global Responsibility in the Coronavirus Fight
With plenty of resources available in the U.S., the nation has both a communal and global responsibility in the fight against the coronavirus.
“If you get infected [with COVID-19], even if you don’t get a severe disease, you are a vehicle of transmission to another person,” explained Dr. Fauci. “You essentially are helping to propagate the outbreak, as opposed to being a dead end to the outbreak, by getting infected and passing it onto someone else.”
“People should think not only about themselves in a vacuum; they should think about their societal responsibility as a member of society to help to crush this outbreak.”
As a wealthier nation, this responsibility also extends beyond our backyards and into the world at large, according to Dr. Fauci.
“By the middle of 2022, we will have given 1.1 billion doses to low-income countries, as well as donating $4 billion to COVAX, which is the organization that’s been formed to be able to get doses of the vaccine to the developing world,” Dr. Fauci said. “We have an obligation [to help] the rest of the world because of our resources.”
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