Fauci fears US will forget COVID lessons during future pandemics

(NewsNation) — For the past 3 1/2 years, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said we have been living his worst nightmare: in “a deadly pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2, exactly the type of virus that I most feared.”

Now a professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and McCourt School of Public Policy, Fauci says he has a new fear: that a lack of “corporate memory” will cause people to forget what they learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Despite the waning of the pandemic, we must not become complacent that the pandemic is behind us, because we have been surprised before by the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants that have eluded the protection afforded by prior vaccination or infection,” Fauci wrote recently in an editorial for “Science Translational Medicine.”

With all that being said, Fauci believes the country is in a “much better place” compared to one or two years ago.

“It is in that context that we can reflect on lessons that could reduce the likelihood that we will be ‘kept awake’ at night by another devastating, emergent pathogen,” he said.

Fauci described the lessons he learned from the pandemic as falling into two buckets: scientific and public health, which sometimes “spill over to one another.”

The scientific bucket, Fauci said, showed the “success story embedded in the COVID-19 saga,” including discoveries by Dr. Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó that helped develop effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.

Another success was the years of investment in structure-based immunogen design by Barney Graham, Kizzmekia Corbett and other NIAID Vaccine Research Center researchers, Fauci added.

However, Fauci also noted the failures from the public health bucket, including misinformation, poor coordination between state and federal governments, supply chain issues and other institutional weaknesses.

“Over and over, after time has passed from the appearance of an acute public health challenge, and after cases, hospitalizations, and deaths fall to an ‘acceptable’ level — be it from an influenza pandemic, HIV, or a coronavirus outbreak — the transition from being reactive to the dwindling challenge to being durably and consistently prepared for the next challenge seems to fall flat,” Fauci warned.

Going forward, though, a promising strategy has been proposed for dealing with future pandemics.

Fauci says it’s the prototype-pathogen approach, which, according to the National Institute of Health, characterizes “representative viruses” within certain viral families so that knowledge gained, including medical countermeasures and strategies, can be quickly adapted to different viruses in other families.

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