Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a web conference on Tuesday that the fight against the virus which “took over the planet” is far from over, stating that the battle had only just begun.
“In a period of four months, it has devastated the whole world,” Fauci told the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, calling the virus his “worst nightmare.”
“That’s millions and millions of infections worldwide. And it isn’t over yet… Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of it.”
The health official said he was surprised by how rapidly the virus spread since the outbreak erupted in China late last year, attributing the speed to the contagiousness of the illness and the pace of modern travel, which facilitated its transmission across continents.
“I mean, Ebola was scary. But Ebola would never be easily transmitted in a global way. HIV, as important as it is, was drawn out over an extended period of time,” Fauci went on, though he noted that “the ultimate impact of AIDS almost certainly will be greater than anything we’re talking about now.”
Fauci’s grim assessment comes as states across the US continue a drive to reopen, slowly lifting sweeping containment measures which shut down wide swaths of the economy and put tens of millions of Americans out of work. The country has also been gripped by mass protests over police brutality since late May, seeing tens of thousands of people take part in crowded street demonstrations, largely disregarding social distancing guidelines.
Despite the pessimistic forecast, Fauci said he was “very heartened” by work in the pharmaceutical industry, saying researchers “stepped up to the plate.” While getting a complete understanding of the virus is still a “work in progress,” he suggested development of a vaccine was coming along apace.
“The industry is not stupid. They figured it out,” Fauci said. “There’s going to be more than one winner in the vaccine field because we’re going to need vaccines for the entire world. Billions and billions of doses.”
While no inoculation is yet available, more than 124 vaccine candidates are now in the works, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
To date, the coronavirus has infected more than 7.1 million people and killed in excess of 408,000 worldwide, with nearly 2 million sickened and over 111,000 fatalities in the US. Though outbreaks have slowed in some regions of the US and Europe, the virus has accelerated elsewhere, namely South America, with the WHO recently warning the pandemic is “worsening” globally, even as it subsides in certain hotspots.