Dr. Anthony Fauci, who for many became the face of the federal government's COVID-19 pandemic response, rolled up his sleeve and didn't flinch as he got his first dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine Tuesday. Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, was joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins and several NIH Clinical Center frontline health workers.
Fauci, who said he wanted to show he was extremely confident in the vaccine, pointed out that the new coronavirus vaccines have their roots in research performed by the scientists and grantees at the NIH. He flashed a thumbs-up once his shot was over.
"This, what we're seeing now, is the culmination of years of research which have led to a phenomenon which is truly unprecedented — and that is to go from the realization that we're dealing with a new pathogen, a virus that was described in January of this year, to less than one year later to have vaccines that are going into the arms of so many people, including myself. And so I consider it an honor to be part of this process," Fauci said.
Azar said it was "nothing short of miraculous" to have a safe, effective vaccine in less than a year and said it would save thousands of lives and help bring what he called "this dark chapter" to an end.
"As extraordinary as this scientific achievement is, getting this vaccine is more or less just like any other vaccine we receive. We have to follow the right mask wearing and social distancing precautions today, b ut otherwise, this is just like NIH health care workers or HHS employees getting their annual flu shots," Azar said.
Moderna's vaccine is the second vaccine the Food and Drug Administration has so far authorized for emergency use. Moderna began delivering doses Monday after the vaccine was approved late Friday. A similar vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was approved a week earlier and began distribution last week.
"Americans can be confident in this vaccine and each vaccine the FDA authorizes for COVID-19. These vaccines are going to save so many lives and help bring this pandemic to an end," Azar said.
More than 18 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, and more than 319,000 Americans have died.