Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Financial Times he’s worried the vaccine skepticism that surged during the Covid-19 pandemic could affect childhood immunization rates for other viruses and result in the resurgence of “avoidable and unnecessary outbreaks” of childhood diseases as cases of polio and measles make comebacks across the country.
Fauci—who in December will retire as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a position he has held for more than 35 years–is concerned the acceleration of an “an anti-vaxxer attitude” could extend to childhood vaccinations with “tragic” results, he told the Financial Times in an interview published Sunday morning.
Fauci told the British newspaper officials should escalate efforts to correct vaccine misinformation disseminated on social media, and build trust between public health organizations and Americans.
About 68% of Americans have received both Covid-19 vaccine doses, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while only 49% have had a booster shot, which is lower than in most other wealthy countries.
Fauci’s warning comes less than two weeks after the virus that causes polio was detected in wastewater from several New York counties, leading the state to declare a health emergency. The first case of polio in the U.S. in nearly a decade was reported in Rockland County, New York, in July. Rockland Country has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the state, with a polio vaccination rate of 60.34% as of August 1. Polio was declared eradicated from the U.S. in 1979, the last time a case of polio was known to have originated domestically and not from international travelers. In 2018, Rockland County also experienced an outbreak of measles, another highly contagious, vaccine-preventable disease that has resurged in parts of the U.S. with low vaccination rates. Last year, 23 million children worldwide missed out on basic vaccines from disruptions in routine immunization services caused by the pandemic, according to the United Nations and the World Health Organization, marking the “largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in approximately 30 years.”
By Carlie Porterfield, Forbes Staff