‘Stick to Science’ Dr Anthony Fauci’s Farewell Advice

Long before there were oligarchs and “Fauci ouchie,” Dr. Anthony Fauci was an outspoken man about scary illnesses — and “sticking to science” remains his mantra.

Fauci step down from a five-decade-long public service career at the end of the month, a career shaped by the HIV pandemic early on and the COVID-19 pandemic at its end.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Fauci said he was excited by the prospect of advances like a next-generation coronavirus vaccine – but worried that misinformation and blatant lies hit marks an “extremely dangerous” moment for science and public health.

“There’s a lot of dishonesty and we almost normalize dishonesty,” Fauci said. “I take care of my health sector, but I also take care of the country.”

Fauci, who turned 82 on Christmas Eve, was a physician and scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for 54 years, and director of 38 of them.

Because he candidly puts complex science into plain English, Fauci has advised seven presidents, from Ronald Reagan to Joe Biden, on a long list of outbreaks — HIV, Ebola, Zika, influenza poultry, the flu pandemic, even the 2001 anthrax attack.

“Stay with science and never be afraid to tell someone something is true – but it’s an inconvenient truth, including the possibility of the messenger getting shot,” Fauci said. “You don’t have to worry about it. You just have to keep telling the truth.”

He added, with characteristic parlance: “That actually served me quite well with the exception of, you know, the fact that has created a lot of hostility towards me in an administration.”

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For all his previous influences on national and even global responses to infectious diseases, it was not until COVID-19 crippled the world in early 2020 that Fauci became a become a household name — giving the latest updates at the daily White House press briefings and regularly interviewing the media.

But in the end, Fauci found herself at odds with efforts by then-President Donald Trump to downplay the severity of the virus threat and promote unproven treatments. Trump and his allies began attacking Fauci, who even received death threats asking for a security detail to protect him.

As the world enters another year of COVID-19, Fauci remains a frequent target of the far right — but also a trusted voice for millions of Americans.

Under his supervision, researchers at the National Institutes of Health laid the scientific foundation for the rapid development of powerful drugs. vaccines against corona virus. An analysis released by the Commonwealth Fund last week found that the shots saved 3.2 million lives in the United States alone and prevented 18.5 million hospitalizations.

With another winter rally underway, Fauci is disappointed that only 14% of people are eligible for the updated COVID-19 booster — the shot that adds protection against omicron strains — received this injection.

“It doesn’t make any sense, when you have a vaccine that you know can save lives,” he said. But he also expects next-generation vaccines to do a better job of preventing infections, citing promising potentials like the nasal drop vaccine.

For all the political attacks, the public has struggled to understand why some of his and others’ health advice changed as the pandemic broke out — such as why in the first place. Mask-wearing was deemed unnecessary and subsequently mandatory in some places.

Fauci said one of the lessons of the pandemic is to better convey that it’s normal for messages to change as scientists make new discoveries.

“It doesn’t mean you’re flipping. It means you’re really following the science,” he said.

Fauci has contributed to life-saving scientific advances for decades. As a young researcher at the National Institutes of Health, he has helped develop highly effective therapies for rare but once fatal vascular diseases called vasculitis syndrome.

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Then came the AIDS crisis and the days that Fauci, treating patients in the NIH hospital, recalls as “very dark and very difficult.”

“As a doctor, you’re trained to heal people. And we didn’t cure anyone. Everyone died in front of us.”

Fauci founded an AIDS department that, along with pharmaceutical companies and universities, led research into drugs that would eventually turn HIV into a manageable chronic disease. Then, under President George W. Bush, Fauci helped develop PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, to bring those HIV drugs to poor countries. The program is credited with saving more than 20 million lives over the past 20 years.

But it took years to get the first anti-AIDS drugs — and in the late 1980s and early 90s, angry activists protested against what they saw as government indifference. Fauci brought activists to the table, making it standard practice for patient advocates to have a say in government decisions about drug research.

Unfortunately, he said, that experience cannot help heal today’s political divisions that are taking a toll on public health.

“Aids activists” are theatrical, says Fauci. They exclude symbols. They provoke. They confront, all of the above. But the basic core message they have is the correct one.” “That is very different from what is happening now with COVID, where there is a lot of dishonesty, a lot of conspiracy theories, a lot of distortion of reality.”

Despite that kind of enmity, Fauci is excited by recent scientific advances against a list of other scourges, such as research into vaccines for malaria, tuberculosis, and maybe one day is HIV. That’s why despite leaving the government, Fauci said he will not retire.

“I will continue to lecture and write and try to encourage and inspire people to go into science, medicine and public health,” he said. “There are a lot of things that are still unfinished and at some point they will be done because science will do it.”


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