The nation’s leading infectious disease expert said that the U.S. should try to keep children in schools “as best we possibly can” while the country sees a spike in coronavirus cases rivaling numbers that previously saw the nation shut down.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, during a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health forum, said the data does not show widespread transmission of the virus in schools.
“Our default position – there will always be exceptions ... there is never one-size-fits-all – our default position should be to try to keep the schools open and get children who are not in school back in school as best as we possibly can,” Fauci told Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who moderated Wednesday’s discussion.
Fauci added that the children do not appear to be transmitting the virus to adults in school settings either, such as teachers or other administrators. He said that the risk to these adults being in schools does not appear to be “any greater than the risk they would face” by being in the general community.
“When you take into consideration the safety and the health of the children as well as the teachers, in general, it looks like we can keep the children in school and get them back to school safely,” he said.
Fauci added that the introduction of a vaccine will also make it easier to keep schools open as the level of transmission in communities is lowered.
The wide-ranging interview also touched on vaccine development, and news about two health care workers in the U.K. who received the Pfizer jab and suffered an allergic reaction. Fauci said that it was “likely a rare and unusual effect,” but that anyone who has a tendency to suffer an allergic reaction might want to prepare for such an instance when they receive the vaccine.
He said that an allergic reaction is one of the reasons why the scientific community is developing several vaccine candidates so that there are alternative options.
“If we find there is a consistent issue within a subset of people you’ll always have other vaccine platforms that you can use and hopefully you will not see that,” he said.
In the discussion, Fauci also revealed that the brother of his youngest daughter's boyfriend died after suffering from a heart-related coronavirus complication. Fauci said the man, in his 30s, had been healthy before his infection.
Fauci’s comments come as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prepares to meet on Thursday to discuss Pfizer’s emergency use authorization application. Previously published documents signal that the regulatory agency is poised to vote for approval.
As of Wednesday, the U.S. had tallied over 15.2 million coronavirus cases, and more than 287,600 deaths.