Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy last Thursday, discussing the ethics of vaccine distribution and the global dynamics of fighting a pandemic.

Fauci, Director of the U. S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, was at the U. of C. to virtually receive the 2020 Dean’s Award, which is  “bestowed upon an exceptional leader for his or her lifetime contributions to public policy.” 

In the question-and-answer session afterward, Fauci credited essential and service workers with keeping the country going. 

“You see discrepancies that are stunning. You have brown and Black people by the nature of the jobs they have, that they’re essential workers keeping the country going — they’re interfacing with people. They are not talking to a computer person the way you and I are talking to each other safely wherever we are.”

He also stressed that essential workers are at a higher risk: “They’re out there and they have a higher incidence of infection...and prevalence of the co-morbidities that put them into that category — at whatever age they are — of having a serious outcome of hospitalization and death.”

And though he underscored their importance, Fauci left out service workers in discussing which segments of the population he thinks should be vaccinated first. With several states such as Texas loosening restrictions by lifting mask mandates and eliminating indoor dining capacity limits, community-facing workers have an increasingly large risk of contracting the virus. 

Service workers from West Virginia to Indiana, as well as Chicago, have been demanding priority for vaccinations for that very reason. The city’s Public Health Commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady, said last week that restaurant workers should become eligible for vaccines by the end of March. 

Fauci also pointed out some problems in the United States’ healthcare infrastructure, such as the lack of quality facilities at local doctor’s offices. “Some of them aren’t equipped with twenty-first century or even twentieth-century capabilities, still using fax machines and things like that, [there’s a] lack of the ability to do things electronically.” 

He stressed that we cannot forget what this pandemic has revealed. “We’ve got to remember the health disparities that keep coming back and biting the populations that are most vulnerable.”

Toward the latter half of the event, Fauci weighed in on the global dynamics of a world in pandemic. Referring to the United States and the European Union, Fauci said: “We all agree that we’ve got to treat it as one planet that’s got to look at this pandemic in the same way.” 

In turn, he rebuked places outside Europe and the US because of their response to the pandemic.

“A global pandemic requires a global response. We could do everything we need to do for the United States, the European Union can do it for the European Union and the U.K, but there will be parts of the world, unless we address the response as a global response, we could have variants coming back and forth.”

“Just when you think you have everything under control,” he continued, “because there’s a disease that’s raging in Africa, in Asia, in South America, in the Caribbean, all of a sudden you wind up reseeding your population with a really troublesome variant.” 

Several countries in Asia, such as South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan have enjoyed immense successes in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The United States, on the other hand, leads the world in coronavirus deaths, with the official count at over 500,000 and climbing. The entire African continent has only about a fifth of the deaths of the United States. 

A full recording of the event can be viewed here

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