America’s top infectious disease expert admitted that Covid vaccine mandates he championed may have fueled a dip in confidence in routine shots.
In a rare admission of culpability, Dr Anthony Fauci said the policies were ‘counterproductive’ and turned vaccine skeptics off rather than gain their favor.
Fauci has retired from a long tenure in the federal government, where the White House’s top doctor was the highest-paid federal employee and made around $400,000 per year.
Dr Fauci, who did not make policy but offered medical advice to people that do, was a vocal supporter of vaccine mandates throughout 2021.
Despite his admission that vaccine mandates backfired, the US still requires proof that travelers coming into the country have been vaccinated against Covid.
Dr Anthony Fauci was the government’s top infectious diease expert during the Covid pandemic, largely viewed at least early on as being a voice of reason amid widespread panic
In the early days of Covid, Dr Fauci and members of the Trump administration got key public health guidance very wrong, including assertions that masking up would not benefit anyone and in fact limited supplies should be reserved for workers on the frontlines
Talking about the mandates during a sweeping interview Monday, Dr Fauci told the New York Times: ‘Man, I think, almost paradoxically, you had people who were on the fence about getting vaccinated thinking, why are they forcing me to do this?
‘And that sometimes-beautiful independent streak in our country becomes counterproductive.’
Inoculations for diseases that were once considered deadly in the US have fallen since the mandates were enforced, most notably among children who are especially vulnerable to severe cases of measles, pertussis, and polio.
What did Fauci get wrong? From telling people not to wear masks to claiming vaccines stopped infections
Dr Anthony Fauci is due to step down from his position as one of America’s top infectious disease advisors at the end of this year.
Below are listed some of his key blunders when the virus struck
Don’t wear masks, do wear masks
As global concern for Covid was surfacing in March 2020, Fauci told Americans that there was ‘no need’ to wear a face mask.
He said they may only help people ‘feel a little better’, and ‘might even block a droplet’ — but would not provide good protection.
Less than a month later, he was forced into an embarrassing climbdown after it emerged the virus spread via droplets in the air.
Dr Fauci later insisted he advised people not to wear masks to ensure there were enough available for hospitals and healthcare centers.
Covid did not come from a lab
Dr Fauci has also repeatedly insisted that Covid did not leak from a lab in China.
He called the theory a ‘shiny object that will go away’, and brushed aside claims from other top experts as an ‘opinion’.
Dr Fauci has now backpedalled, saying instead that he keeps an ‘open mind’ although insisting that it remains ‘most likely’ that the virus spilled over from animals to humans.
Two jabs will stop you catching Covid
When the Covid vaccine roll-out was in full swing, Dr Fauci said the immunity from shots made doubly-vaccinated people a ‘dead end’ for the virus, and even suggested they may no longer need to wear masks.
Schools were closed from March through to August 2020, something Dr Fauci later expressed regret about.
But he said last month that he ‘should have realized’ there would be ‘deleterious collateral consequences’.
Children are now bearing the brunt of the US’s tripledemic, after lockdowns left them without proper immune defense.
Funding Wuhan lab
In 2014, Dr Facui’s agency issued a $3.7million grant to EcoHealth Alliance, which some allege was used to support gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
The percentage of American children entering kindergarten with their required immunizations such as the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) shot fell to 93 percent in the 2021-22 school year, a whole two percentage points below the recommended levels for herd immunity and lower than vaccination rates in 2020-21.
And though approximately 66 percent of US children aged five months were up to date for all childhood vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016 through 2019, that number declined to slightly over 49 percent by May 2020.
In all, US adults and adolescents have missed more than 37 million routine vaccinations during the Covid pandemic, according to an analysis of insurance claims from health consulting firm Avalere.
Many experts believe the Covid shot requirements fueled vaccine hesitancy that had been brewing in the US for decades.
Over the course of the three-year pandemic, various states and local governments have instituted Covid vaccine mandates to get holdouts on board.
Federally-issued mandates for some private employers, military, and government workers were a response to lagging vaccination rates and climbing infection numbers.
The vaccines, delivered to the public in record time, were initially touted by government officials as key to stemming infection and transmission rates, though it has since become clear that vaccination does not prevent infection very well.
While Fauci himself did not issue the federal mandates, his full-throated support of those issued by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Department of Defense convinced many Americans that he was an architect, if not the main one.
Dr Fauci has been embroiled in controversy since his first week behind the podium in the White House briefing room in March 2020.
He now-famously bungled early guidance concerning masks and was found to have quashed dissenting opinions about the origins of the coronavirus, insisting that it most likely jumped from an animal reservoir before mutating in such a way to prove deadly to humans.
He has also been maligned for having a role in despensing federal grant money to an organization that supports research on coronaviruses that could make them more transmissible or lethal, sometimes referred to as ‘gain of function’.
The federal mandates have largely been removed in the face of myriad lawsuits alleging government overreach, but the vast majority of the damage had already been done with little to show for it.
President Joe Biden’s order that all federal workers must be vaccinated has been blocked in court last month while the Supreme Court blocked a similar federal mandate on the private workforce in early 2022.
And though the most stringent Covid requirements have been unwound, international arrivals to the US still must prove they have been vaccinated before they get on the plane in their home countries.
Still, about half of US states mandate employees in various industries to get the Covid vaccine while over a dozen have broken off in a completely different direction by instituting bans on such mandates.
One such state is Florida, where Gov Ron Desantis has championed efforts to undermine federal efforts to tamp down Covid, including lockdowns and vaccine passports.
Gov DeSantis signed legislation in 2021 that barred companies from requiring their workers to get the shots, and banned vaccine mandates from government entities and educational institutions, despite previously calling them ‘lifesaving’.
Since the first Covid vaccines were made available in the US – first Pfizer-BioNTech followed by Moderna – over 79 percent of US adults have received two doses of either vaccine. While vaccine uptake was strong early on in the rollout, the US is home to millions of holdouts who doubt the vaccines’ safety and efficacy
The omicron wave that ravaged the US in the winter of 2021-22 drove daily Covid case counts to an all-time-high at 809,000 new infections on January 17
Deaths due to covid are nowhere near their high points in 2020 or 2021. Nearly 250 people died with Covid in the US in the week ending April 12
The measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is extremely effective at preventing all three conditions and as such, they are mandatory in some school districts to enroll a child, though religious exemptions are sometimes offered
Dr Fauci found himself having to repeatedly defend state and private industry efforts to require vaccinations as well as federally-issued mandates applying to civilian government workers and military members.
He said in the fall of 2021: ‘When you are in a public health crisis, sometimes unusual situations require unusual actions. In this case, it’s things like mandating, be they masks or vaccinations.’
The top-down push to get people vaccinated reaffirmed millions of Americans’ feelings that their personal autonomy was under threat and must be rejected wholeheartedly.
This bred widespread anti-vaccine sentiment, as many people believed cynically that the government was flexing its muscles to an authoritarian extent.
Nothing so effective could reasonably be made free for all; why would the government force the shots on the public if they failed to prevent infection; they were developed on such an accelerated timeline that there is no way they can be safe and effective; and any effort by the government to sidestep individual liberty must be sinister.
Vaccine mandates fed all of those arguments.
‘And you have that smoldering anti-science feeling, a divisiveness that’s palpable politically in this country,’ Dr Fauci added.
Proof that vaccine mandates were effective is murky. While rates of new shots administered ticked up slightly in the weeks following President Biden’s announcement of mandates in early November 2021, they dipped before climbing again and over again in fits and starts.
The mandates ignited a national response that, instead of convincing people the shots were safe and effective, sparked an impulse to go in the other direction and reject the vaccines in the name of preserving personal autonomy.
A 2022 review of the policies’ efficacy in different countries, not only the US, found that mandates could actually exacerbate cynicism and mistrust of the government.
Authors of the review published in BMJ Global Health said: ‘Compulsory COVID-19 vaccination would likely increase levels of anger, especially in those who are already mistrustful of authorities, and do little to persuade the already reluctant.
‘Two experiments in Germany and the USA found that a new COVID-19 vaccine mandate would likely energise anti-vaccination activism, reduce compliance with other public health measures, and decrease acceptance to future voluntary influenza or varicella (chickenpox) vaccines.’
A December 2022 survey conducted by researchers at Cornell University found that mandates likely did not change anyone’s mind about the efficacy and life-preserving abilities of the Covid shots and in fact eroded public confidence in them even further.
Authors of the survey published in the journal Vaccine said: ‘While significant percentages of vaccinated Americans and Democrats said that a vaccine mandate would make them more likely to re-engage in various aspects of pre-pandemic social and economic life, many fewer unvaccinated Americans and Republicans said the same.’
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