August 20, 2020 -- Although public health officials are eagerly working on a coronavirus vaccine, the U.S. likely won’t mandate it, the nation’s top infectious disease expert said Tuesday.
“I don’t think you’ll ever see a mandating of vaccine, particularly for the general public,” Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a live town hall hosted by Healthline.
Fauci said some businesses might require their workers to have certain vaccines, depending on the industry and job requirements. The health care industry, for instance, could prevent employees from working or interacting with patients if they don’t have a flu vaccine, he said.
Overall, though, Fauci doesn’t see a broad requirement going into place. Schools and universities require certain vaccinations, such as measles and other infectious diseases, but he expressed doubts that the coronavirus vaccine would be added to that list. He said he’d be “pretty surprised if you mandated it for any element of the general public.”
Several COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in the final stage of clinical trials, and the CDC has asked four states to create plans for vaccine distribution that can be used across the country. Fauci said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine will be available next year.
“The reason I’ve said I’m cautiously optimistic is because the studies … are inducing a level of neutralizing antibodies” similar to those who have recovered from the coronavirus, Fauci said.
Once a vaccine is available, the first doses will go to vulnerable people who would benefit the most, he said. The priority groups will be decided by two independent advisory groups this year.
“As we get well into 2021, it is likely that there will be enough doses for anyone who wanted it,” he said.
However, many Americans have expressed their reluctance to get a coronavirus vaccine. A WebMD poll from late July found that 40% of people would get one during the first year, and 26% said they’d get a vaccine in the first 90 days.
Public health officials are developing plans to encourage people to get vaccinated, but Fauci said, people “have the right to refuse a vaccine.”
“If someone refuses the vaccine in the general public, then there’s nothing you can do about that,” he said. “You cannot force someone to take a vaccine.”