In a press conference on Tuesday, Anthony Fauci made his final appearance in the White House briefing room as chief medical advisor to the president and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and urged Americans to get their updated Covid-19 boosters as soon as possible.
Fauci's final press conference
Fauci first joined NIH in 1968 at 27 years old and eventually took over NIAID in 1984. Since that time, Fauci has advised seven presidents and served on the frontlines of many major health events, including AIDS, Ebola, and the 2001 anthrax scares.
Earlier this year, Fauci announced that he'd be stepping down as chief medical advisor to the president and director of NIAID at the end of the year. However, he has stressed that he is not retiring but instead moving into a different phase of his career, noting the possibility of teaching, lecturing, and writing.
In a press conference alongside White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and White House Covid-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha, Fauci on Tuesday urged Americans to receive their updated Covid-19 boosters.
"My message, and my final message, maybe the final message I get 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," he said.
"Immunity and protection wanes over time," he added. "You need to update the protection we know is good protection."
Regarding his legacy after 54 years with NIH, Fauci said, "I'll let other people judge the value or not of my accomplishments, but what I would like people to remember about what I've done, is that every day, for all of those years, I've given it everything that I have and I've never left anything on the field."
"So if they want to remember me, whether they judge rightly or wrongly what I've done, I gave it all I got for many decades," he added.
Reflecting on the three years of the Covid-19 pandemic, Fauci condemned the "divisiveness" that surrounded the response to the pandemic.
"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. "Whether you're a far-right Republican or a far-left Democrat, doesn't make any difference to me. I look upon it the same way as I did in the emergency room in the middle of New York City, when I was taking care of everybody that was coming in off the street."
When asked about his outlook on the pandemic, Fauci said he "did not imagine we'd see a three-year saga of suffering and death and a million Americans losing their lives."
"The thing that was most disturbing was the continuation of multiple variants evolving over time," he said. "Where I think we're going is sooner or later—and I hope it's sooner—we're going to equilibrate to a low level" of virus in the community.
Fauci also acknowledged the difficulties many government officials had communicating with the public about Covid-19.
"When you're dealing with an evolving outbreak with the information, you get changes from week to week and month to month," he said. "We've got to probably do a better job of when we talk to the public, explaining that this is a dynamic situation that could change."
"The only thing people heard when they throw it back at you is, 'Well, you said we don't have to worry about anything,' so you just got to make sure you always underscore the dynamic nature of what you're dealing with," he added.
When asked about oversight hearings over his handling of the pandemic that some members of the Republican party have pledged to instigate, Fauci said he "absolutely will cooperate and testify before the Congress."
"Obviously, you may not know, but I testified before the Congress a few hundred times over the last 40 years or so," he said. "So I have no trouble testifying. We can defend and explain and stand by everything that we've said. So I have nothing to hide." (Mueller, The Hill, 11/22; Mahr/Cancryn, Politico, 11/22; Scott, Washington Post, 11/22; Frieden, MedPage Today, 11/22)