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Key Words: Fauci praises Biden’s grasp of science: ‘There is no doubt it is better to have a smooth transition’

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‘They are critical.’

That’s Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for the past three decades and the country’s leading infectious disease doctor, talking about the importance of the smooth transition of power. Fauci, 79, who has worked with six administrations, likened political transitions to a relay race, and said it’s better not to stop in order to pass on the baton.

“I would like to see the interactions of people who are coming in, doing the things that are being done now by the task force,” he said Tuesday. “Obviously, there is no doubt it is better to have a smooth transition,” Fauci said, adding, “The Biden people are already talking to the companies, which is a good thing. I have not been in touch with the Biden administration at this point.”

Last week, BioNTech SE BNTX, -5.01% and Pfizer PFE, +1.84% announced progress in a vaccine with 90% efficacy. On Monday, Moderna MRNA, -4.90%   said that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate met its primary endpoint in a Phase 3 trial, demonstrating 94.5% efficacy. The news has not yet been published as a preprint or in a peer-reviewed medical journal. 

Related:‘Cytokine Storm’ — the ‘intriguing’ similarity between COVID-19 and the 1918 influenza

Fauci said news of two new vaccines with an efficacy of 90% and over is a reason to celebrate. “At best, what we will see, will that be some people — generally the highest priority, that’s determined by an advisory committee and, ultimately, the CDC — there will likely be some getting vaccinated towards the end of December,” he told National Public Radio.

By the end of the year, he expressed optimism that Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna would have vaccines available for 20 million people, but he reiterated that there’s unlikely be a rollout for the broader the population — beyond frontline workers like medical staff and school teachers, and people with underlying health conditions and older people at risk — until the second quarter.

While the U.S. makes up 4% of the world’s population, it has had 20% of all COVID-19 cases. As of Wednesday, the U.S. had reported 11 million coronavirus cases and 248,687 COVID-related deaths, just ahead of India (8.9 million cases to date), according to Johns Hopkins University. To put that in context: The U.S. has a population of 328 million people versus 1.35 billion in India.

People walk past a mural of Dr. Anthony Fauci by the artist SacSix in the East Village of New York City, portraying the infectious-diseases expert as a member of the Star Ship Enterprise from the sci-fi series ‘Star Trek.’

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In a separate interview with STAT Summit Tuesday, Fauci praised President-elect Joe Biden, 77, and said he had a “considerable, in fact, if not profound” understanding of science. He worked with Biden during the Obama administration’s response to the West African Ebola virus. Fauci said they had not seen each other since Biden left the White House four years ago.

The doctor also said he could have been more aggressive in pushing for COVID-19 testing earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, which could have helped to target the hot spots and help stop community transmission, but said that was a challenge at the time. “It never became a reality because we never really had enough tests to do the tests that you had to do,” Fauci added.

‘I have not been in touch with the Biden administration.’

— Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

AstraZeneca AZN, -2.36% ; Johnson & Johnson JNJ, -0.99% ; Merck & Co. MERK, +0.32% ; Sanofi SAN, +0.72% ; and GlaxoSmithKline GSK, -2.39% are among the other companies also working on COVID-19 vaccines. Even if a vaccine does become available by the start of 2021, experts say it will likely be the first quarter before it’s available to all Americans.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.55%, the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.47% and the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.20%  all rose Monday on the news of the Moderna vaccine, which does not need to be kept at freezing temperatures, helping any distribution efforts. However, they lost that momentum Tuesday amid concerns of record new COVID-19 cases.

President Donald Trump, 74, said last week “time will tell’ if he stays in power, despite his Democratic rival Joe Biden winning both the popular and electoral vote in the U.S. presidential election. The president threatened to withhold a coronavirus vaccine, if/when it becomes available, from New York. Meanwhile, the U.S. racked up over 1 million new coronavirus infections in just 6 days.

However, more Republican governors are dropping resistance to face masks as infections soar and hospitals deal with a flood of cases. ‘If Iowans don’t buy into this, we’ll lose. Businesses will close once again, more schools will be forced to go online, and our health-care system will fail,’ Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said this week, following in the footsteps of West Virginia, and North Dakota.