Outgoing NIAID director Anthony Fauci appeared at his last White House press briefing Tuesday, urging Americans to get their updated COVID-19 booster shots.
Driving the news: Fauci, who served as President Biden’s chief medical adviser since January 2021, announced in August that he would be retiring from government service in December in order to “pursue the next chapter” of his career.
- The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Fauci has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and emerged as the face of the nation’s coronavirus response in the early days of the pandemic in 2020.
State of play: Fauci urged Americans to get their updated COVID-19 vaccines during the press briefing, calling the shots safe and effective.
- “My final message — may be the final message I give you from this podium — is that, please for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you’re eligible, to protect yourself, your family and your community,” Fauci said.
- Asked about his most difficult moments during the pandemic, Fauci highlighted seeing people “not getting vaccinated for reasons that have nothing to do with public health, but have to do because of divisiveness and ideological differences.”
- “As a physician, it pains me because I don’t want to see anybody get infected, I don’t want to see anybody hospitalized, and I don’t want to see anybody die from COVID,” he said.
What they’re saying: Fauci “has been a source of information and facts” during the pandemic, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday, also highlighting his work combating HIV/AIDS and Ebola.
- White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said he would argue that Fauci “has been the most important, consequential public servant in the United States in the last half century and a leader and a role model for so many of us.”
The big picture: Fauci warned in October that a new COVID-19 variant could emerge this winter.
- Fears of a “tripledemic” have abounded in recent weeks as physicians across the country have reported seeing cases of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) rise, coinciding with the flu season and covid-19 pandemic.
- “I feel very confident that if people continue to get vaccinated at good numbers, if people get boosted, we can absolutely have a very safe and healthy holiday season,” Jha said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional reporting.