Amid sagging Covid-19 vaccination rates and stubborn levels of vaccine hesitancy, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Saturday the United States’ successful campaigns to eradicate smallpox and polio in the last century wouldn’t have succeeded if those vaccines were subject to the same level of misinformation that currently surrounds coronavirus vaccines.
In an interview with CNN, Fauci warned that some unvaccinated adults have been exposed to false information, are often skeptical of objective Covid-19 data and frequently justify their decision not to get vaccinated with “things that are really just not true.”
After anchor Jim Acosta compared the situation to polio, the government’s top infectious disease expert offered a dire warning: Fauci said efforts to eliminate smallpox (which was eradicated worldwide over 40 years ago) and polio (which has been eliminated in almost every country) would have faltered under the current climate of misinformation.
“If we had had the pushback for vaccines the way we’re seeing on certain media, I don’t think it would’ve been possible at all to not only eradicate smallpox, we probably would still have smallpox,” Fauci told Acosta, “and we probably would still have polio in this country if we had the kind of false information that’s being spread now.”
99.5%. That’s the share of U.S. Covid-19 deaths in the first half of 2021 that were among unvaccinated people, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky estimated two weeks ago.
Some 55.9% of Americans are at least partially vaccinated against Covid-19, but the pace of vaccinations has slowed considerably after peaking three months ago, and many Americans say they’re unlikely to ever get immunized against the virus. As inoculations crater, many states are facing upticks in Covid-19 cases fueled by the more contagious new Delta variant, especially in parts of the country with low vaccination rates. The White House has blamed part of this trend on misinformation circulating via social media that exaggerates the risks and downplays the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines. This week, President Biden said platforms like Facebook are “killing people” by allowing inaccurate information to circulate, and Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy urged social media companies to take a more proactive approach to preventing the spread of false vaccine and coronavirus claims.