The country’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, received his first dose of Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during a livestreamed event Tuesday at the National Institutes of Health.
Fauci, who will turn 80 this December 24, has been the country’s steady public health adviser throughout the pandemic, and many people have hinged their acceptance of any vaccine on Fauci’s personal approval.
The esteemed doctor is also director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, which co-developed the vaccine with Moderna.
As he rolled up his sleeve on the stage of an NIH auditorium, Fauci gave his reasoning for getting vaccinated publicly:
For me, it’s important for two reasons: One, is that I’m an attending physician here on the staff at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center and so I do see patients. But, as important or more important is as a symbol to the rest of the country that I feel extreme confidence in the safety and the efficacy of this vaccine and I want to encourage everyone who has the opportunity to get vaccinated so that we can have a veil of protection over this country that would end this pandemic.
And with that, he took a quick shot in the arm.
Alongside Fauci, prominent figures also vaccinated at the event included NIH Director Francis Collins and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. The NIH also vaccinated several of its frontline healthcare workers, including a respiratory therapist, a critical care nurse, and a physician who works at a COVID-19 testing site in addition to seeing patients.
Collins was brimming with both pride in the NIH and hope for the end of the pandemic.
“It’s an incredible privilege to serve as the director of the National Institutes of Health, where so much of this work has been happening over the course of this tumultuous year,” Collins said as he sat for his first shot. “I get to talk a lot about these vaccines and their promise for ending this terrible global pandemic,” he added, referencing the Moderna vaccine as well as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which have both been granted emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and use a similar mRNA vaccine strategy.
But, Collins went on, “it’s one thing to hear me talk about, it’s another to have me roll up my sleeve.” And with that, he, too, got his first shot.
Azar, who refused to quarantine after his wife tested positive for COVID-19 last week, was also vaccinated at the event. In an opening statement, Azar said it was “nothing short of miraculous” that researchers at the NIH and elsewhere were able to develop a vaccine so quickly. He said the success should “reinvigorate our optimism about the frontiers of medical science.”
In a closing statement, Collins added that it’s “deeply gratifying to have these halls at NIH now take part in the light that’s starting to appear at the end of a long dark tunnel called COVID-19. A light made possible by the power of NIH science and our many partners.” He ended with a prayer, a section of Psalm 103.