The top U.S. scientist on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci blasted commentators who sound an anti-vaccination theme on Saturday, saying America might still be battling smallpox and polio if today’s kind of misinformation existed back then.
The comments from the country’s leading infectious disease expert reflected mounting frustration over the sharp slowdown in the Covid-19 vaccination rate in the United States, even as the disease has been surging in states with low rates.
It also came days after President Joe Biden expressed his own visible frustration, saying social media that carry widely heard misinformation about vaccines are ‘killing people.’
Dr. Anthony Fauci said successful campaigns to eradicate smallpox and polio wouldn’t have succeeded if the vaccines were subject to misinformation
Top US disease expert Anthony Fauci has said that polio might not have been eliminated if it faced the media resistance that Covid vaccines face
Fauci was responding to a CNN interviewer who asked if he thought ‘we could have defeated the measles or eradicated polio if you had Fox News, night after night, warning people about these vaccine issues that are just bunk.
‘If we had had the pushback for vaccines the way we’re seeing on certain media, I don’t think it would’ve been possible at all to not only eradicate smallpox, we probably would still have smallpox, and we probably would still have polio in this country if we had the kind of false information that’s being spread now,’ Fauci said.
Initial vaccine skepticism in many areas has increasingly evolved into outright hostility, a message magnified by baseless conspiracy theories regularly aired on Fox and other conservative networks.
New Yorkers queue up for their free smallpox vaccinations in April 1947
A child struck down by smallpox at the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Madras, India (file photo)
‘Maybe it doesn’t work and they’re simply not telling you that,’ Tucker Carlson, one of Fox’s most popular commentators, said recently.
The vaccines have instead proved extraordinarily effective. Officials in Maryland, for example, said that not one of the people who died of the disease last month in the state had been vaccinated.
To suggestions of sending vaccine educators door-to-door to encourage people to get the jab, Fox commentator Charlie Hurt said, ‘They’ve become like the Taliban.’
Conservative politicians have increasingly echoed former president Donald Trump’s mockery of Covid precautions.
Door-to-door educators, suggested Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, might instead come and take people’s guns – or their Bibles.
After an initial burst of vaccinations around the country, the pace has slowed sharply.
A patient with smallpox. The scabs eventually fall off leaving marks on the skin that will become pitted scars. The patient is contagious to others until all of the scabs have fallen off. The image is from 1972
Little girls, wheelchair polio patients, are rolled out of their quarters in Hickory, North Carolina, by smiling nurses to start their 60-mile trip to new homes in Charlotte. Pictured in 1945
Biden’s announced goal of having 70 percent of adults vaccinated by July 4 fell short by about three points, and the vaccination rate has slowed further since then, even as the disease’s Delta variant has spread rapidly.
A few Republicans have sought to place blame for the disease’s ravages and economic dislocations on the widely respected Fauci himself.
Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has introduced the so-called Fire Fauci Act, calling for his salary to be reduced to zero and requiring the Senate to confirm a replacement. The bill is not expected to go anywhere.
Fauci was asked on CNN about T-shirts being sold by a political action group linked to Florida governor Ron DeSantis that say ‘Don’t Fauci My Florida.’
He appeared genuinely perplexed.
‘Taking an individual who stands for public health, for truth… and to use my name in a derogatory way to prevent people from doing things that’s for the benefit of their own health, go figure that one out.
‘That doesn’t make any sense at all,’ he said, shaking his head.
The last remnants of poliovirus in Africa were wiped out thanks to a massive vaccination effort in northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram jihadists had opposed immunisztion (Pictured: A child receives a polio vaccine)