Dr. Anthony Fauci combats public trust fears during Emory virtual event over COVID-19 vaccines

From the president’s latest comments about his role in vaccine approval to the concern about public trust in that vaccine, one of the nation’s top health experts says he is backing scientists no matter what.

Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke virtually at Emory University in a Facebook Live conversation Thursday afternoon.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr listened in on what she said was an incredibly candid conversation that focused on public trust.

Fauci said the virus is the enemy, not public health experts.

Throughout the conversation, there was a lot of explaining about how secure the vaccine trial approval process is, and why experts are trying so hard to make sure there’s public trust in the science.

“I was stunned by the relative amount of people that was saying, ‘We don’t trust what the government says,’” Fauci told a group of Emory scientists Thursday about the distrust Black Americans expressed in his online forums about the safety of COVID-19 vaccination trials. “We’re looking at safety all the time, from the minute we stick into someone’s arm in Phase 1 to the end of a phase 4, we’re looking at safety and we really need to get that message out to people.”

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Fauci said extreme safeguards are in place by the independent researchers who kick start the federal approval process -- one the White House wants for COVID-19 by Election Day.

Fauci was asked about the president’s comments this week saying the White House could override the FDA if the agency puts tougher vaccine authorization standards in place.

“If it gets to that point, would you put your hand up and say, ‘this is too risky?’” neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked Fauci.

“I wouldn’t use those words. What I would say is that I rely very heavily on the decades of experience of the FDA scientists who say we should do this and therefore, I’d have to lean very heavily on their side and support them.” Fauci said. “If they come out and say, ‘this is the way we should do it,’ I got your back on that.'”

“You know it’s so hard now-a-days, and we’re fighting an epidemic of a virus and we’re fighting an epidemic of misinformation, and I think misinformation is causing infections and it’s causing problems,” Emory global health expert Dr. Carlos del Rio said.

While the topic of trust and misinformation topped the half hour discussion, there was also a bit about how antibody solutions could play a role in COVID-19 treatments should a vaccination take longer than we all hope.

Experts agreed the research just isn’t there yet on convalescent plasma.

“While it’s very low resource and it could be widely available, we’ve not really studied and characterized it to the degree that’s really necessary to be able to determine whether we’re getting efficacy from it,” infectious disease expert Dr. Colleen S Kraft said.

Fauci said Amen to that and saying while he didn’t want to sound preachy he would offer this much--

If you feel like you’re in the clear, like this virus doesn’t affect you, maybe you’re asymptomatic and don’t know you’re a threat-- then think about your responsibility to others and how we’re all critical to fully re-opening society.