WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser warned in an interview with the Financial Times that a broad refusal of vaccines against COVID-19 may undermine efforts to immunize children and contain future illness outbreaks.
Anti-vaccine attitudes “might spill over into that kind of a negative attitude towards childhood vaccinations,” Anthony Fauci said. “If you fall back on vaccines against common vaccine-preventable childhood diseases, that’s where you wind up getting avoidable and unnecessary outbreaks.”
Political divisions over U.S. public health are hurting efforts to fight the pandemic, he added, with some states failing to promote vaccines and Congress holding back funding.
The comments follow White House health officials’ recent warning that new virus outbreaks could prove more serious than COVID-19. The Biden administration is pushing for funding to combat that sort of threat, and the president urged Americans earlier this month to seek out newly authorized booster shots tailored to fight the omicron subvariants that are now dominant.
Efforts to contain the coronavirus have stoked political tensions between the White House and Republican leaders including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who are attempting to block vaccine mandates. A hate-filled pressure campaign, including death threats, led the author of a bill seeking to cut California’s age of vaccine consent to abandon his efforts last month.
Fauci, 81, said in August that he’ll end more than a half-century career as a civil servant this December. At the time, Fauci decried the political polarization that impeded America’s response to COVID-19 and said he would advise his successor – who has yet to be named – to stay out of politics.
“The country has come to a state where even politicians are saying things that are triggering thoughts of violence and harassment against me and my family,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg last month, noting the threats didn’t play a role in his decision to step down.
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