Dr. Anthony Fauci Tuesday called for mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for the nation's teachers, saying the nation is in a major surge of the disease and children are increasingly becoming ill and hospitalized as cases from the highly transmissible delta variant is causing numbers of cases to climb.
"I'm going to upset people, but I think we should," Fauci said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "We've had 600,000-plus deaths and we are in a major surge now as we're going into the fall, into the school season. This is very serious business."
The mandates won't come from the federal government, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an advisor to President Joe Biden, added.
"You're talking about local mandates, for schools, for teachers for universities for colleges," said Fauci. "I'm sorry. I know people must like to have their individual freedom and not be told to do something but I think we're in such a serious situation now that under certain circumstances mandates should be done."
Children were not at high risk of the first form of COVID-19, but with the delta version, the numbers of children ending up in the nation's pediatric hospitals are climbing.
For example, the Tennessee state health department has projected that children's hospitals there will be full by the end of the week, reports USA Today. In Florida's Wolfson Children's Hospital, 94 children were admitted in July, marking more than four times as many children as were admitted in June.
"We obviously have to balance, you know, the discussion that we've had now for, you know, over a year is to balance the negative impact on kids from keeping them out of school," Fauci said Tuesday. But with the delta variant, and because vaccines have not been approved for children under the age of 12, further steps must be taken to "surround the children with people, who if they are eligible to be vaccinated, get vaccinated….if you want to be around children, you have to do whatever you can to protect them. If you're eligible to get vaccinated, get vaccinated since children of certain ages can't get vaccinated."
That protection also includes mandating masks in schools, said Fauci.
"I know a lot of people push back about that, but again, that's the weapon, if you want to call it that," said Fauci. "Vaccinate those who can be vaccinated and wear masks in situations in which you have unvaccinated people."
Meanwhile, the current surge is worse in places where there are low vaccination rates, and the fact that more than 100,000 new cases a day are once again being reported is "really, really a problem."
"We have 93 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated, who are not vaccinated," said Fauci. "As we have said so many times, this is an outbreak of the unvaccinated."
And that means that when a virus circulated among unvaccinated people, that gives it "ample opportunity" to mutate.
"What they don't fully appreciate is even if they don't get any symptoms they allow themselves to be a vehicle for the virus to spread in the community," said Fauci. "If you allow the virus to mutate to a variant that evades the vaccine then even vaccinated people are going to be negatively impacted by people not wanting to get vaccinated."
The COVID vaccines available now do "quite well" with severe disease coming from the delta variant, but that may not continue, Fauci warned.
He also rejected the arguments against the vaccine by some who doubt its use because it has not yet been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
"What you see now with these vaccines is that we've been giving them to hundreds of millions of people throughout the world and it is highly effective and very safe," said Fauci. "There's no doubt that these vaccines are going to get fully approved. So what's going on now with the vaccines is as good as full approval, so this idea about it's not fully approved is really a false narrative. It really is. You should consider this as good as fully approved and get vaccinated."
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