WASHINGTON — White House Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci, MD, said Thursday he is “feeling really fine” following his bout with COVID-19 last week.
“I had some mild symptoms last Tuesday,” the 81-year-old Fauci, who is also director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a question-and-answer session at Thursday’s White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing. “I checked my antigen test on Wednesday, and it was positive.”
After a day of “symptomatology,” Fauci said he started on a 5-day course of Paxlovid last Wednesday, “and I have now finished the Paxlovid and I’m still feeling really quite fine. I think I’m an example, given my age, of what we’re all talking about today — I’m vaccinated. I’m doubly boosted. And I believe if that were not the case, I very likely would not be talking to you, looking as well as I look, I think, right now.” Fauci did not address a reporter’s question about how he thinks he may have contracted the virus.
Also at the briefing, response team coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, addressed the issue of bivalent COVID-19 vaccines in the pipeline for the coming fall and winter. Although the vaccines have not yet been authorized by the FDA, the administration does think that’s likely to happen, he said. “Then, negotiators on behalf of the U.S. government are going to enter into contract negotiations with Moderna and Pfizer with the resources that we’ve been able to pull together for vaccines for the fall.”
Although the Biden administration doesn’t have enough funds at this point to purchase a vaccine for every adult who wants one, “we’ll continue to have conversations with both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill” about getting more funding, he said.
“I am an eternal optimist,” Jha added. “I remain convinced that Congress is not going to walk away at this point in the pandemic — when we have made so much progress and as we are looking into the fall and winter with a new generation of vaccines — I don’t believe Congress will walk away and say, ‘We’re not going to make sure that every American who wants a vaccine is able to get one.'”
“There isn’t a commercialization plan that somehow would be ready in time for this fall and winter, so we really have to make sure we have the resources we need, so that people who want a vaccine this fall and winter” can get one, he noted. Asked to elaborate, Jha responded, “There is not an obvious way to get these things commercialized. If you think about it from the perspective of these companies, they’re negotiating with countries around the world. They have certain limitations to their production capacity. And there’s not an easy way to make sure that the commercial purchasers somehow get in and beat out other countries to have product available. So we’re looking at all the contingencies.”
He was also asked about a prediction he made last month that the U.S. could see a surge of 100 million new COVID infections this fall and winter if Congress doesn’t provide more COVID funding. “We are constantly looking at a whole range of data, both internal models developed by government scientists, as well as external models,” Jha said. “And we’re planning for a range of scenarios. And … one of the range of scenarios we have is that we could see a substantial wave of infections … We try not to be in the prediction business and we try to be in the planning business, and we have to plan for a range of scenarios, obviously always hoping that we get a very mild winter, that we have very few infections. But hoping is not a strategy.”
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, updated reporters on the latest COVID statistics. The current daily average of cases is 99,400, down 4% from last week, she said; the 7-day average for hospital admissions is 4,400 per day, up 2% over last week; and average daily deaths stand at 250 per day, down 16% from the prior week.