Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said that Chinese authorities did a “disservice” by not allowing scientists in their country to speak freely about COVID-19 at the start of the virus’s outbreak.
“I think the Chinese authorities that did not allow the scientists to speak out as openly and transparently as they could really did a disservice,” Fauci said Sunday on John Catsimatidis’s radio show.
China, which reported its first COVID-19 cases late in 2019, has faced criticism by President Trump for its handling of the virus and for censoring health officials at the out start of the outbreak.
In February, Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, one of the main voices criticizing the government’s response to the virus, died of the virus himself.
Fauci said that if scientists were able to voice their findings about human-to-human transmission earlier in the pandemic, it may have prevented the volume of cases seen this year.
“Because at the beginning of the outbreak, they were claiming that this was just animal-to-human transmission,” Fauci said.
“And there really wasn’t a human-to-human transmission at all. And they held that line for a few weeks. And then it became very clear when the scientists were able to talk about it, that, in fact, there was human-to-human transmission… Yes, it’s another example of the unfortunate situation of lack of transparency early on.”
Fauci also said he is “cautiously optimistic about” the possibility of having a vaccine ready by the end of the year. Moderna, the biotechnology company working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the federal public health organization led by Fauci, has begun a phase two trial of a potential vaccine that may enter a phase three trial in July.
“We’re hoping that by the time we get into the mid-late fall we’ll be able to get some data to indicate whether or not it works,” he said.
“If we are fortunate enough…we may have a vaccine that we could be utilizing toward the very end of this year… This is aspirational. There’s no guarantee.”