Ireland needs to be wary of plateau in number of virus cases – US infectious disease chief Dr Fauci

US infectious disease chief Dr Anthony Fauci

Eilish O'Regan

US infectious disease chief Dr Anthony Fauci predicts Covid-19 vaccines provide light at the end of pandemic tunnel for Ireland, but warns the current plateau in cases of the virus requires caution.

Dr Fauci is due to make his remarks when he is presented with an Honorary Fellowship by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) later today.

In conversation with RCPI President Professor Mary Horgan he will state that Covid-19 vaccines bring great hope.

“Although we need to continue to be cautious because this virus has surprised us continually with various surges over the last year to fourteen months ... there is light at the end of the tunnel, particularly now that we have vaccines that have been proven to be highly efficacious and safe.

"To me this is going to be, as we call it, a real game-changer in what we've done. We're starting to see in countries that have just even begun to implement the distribution and implementation of vaccine programmes that there is clearly a diminution in hospitalisations and deaths.”

However, according to Dr Fauci: “As we've seen in the United States, the curve very sharply goes down, but for the last couple of weeks it has kind of plateaued a bit.

"I don't think that that should cause us to despair, but that it should cause us to be cautious that as we continue to vaccinate more and more people, which will ultimately give us control of the outbreak, we've got to remember we can't just completely turn off all public health measures.

"The only time we can do that is when we have the virus very much under control at a very, very low case positivity.”

An Honorary Fellowship is the college’s highest award and is reserved for world leaders in medical science and those who have made an exceptional contribution to society.

Following Dr Fauci's appointment as director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in 1984, he spearheaded the battle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic through research and advocacy; led the research response to infections such as tuberculosis, malaria, Zika and Ebola; and has latterly been a prominent member of the White House coronavirus task force.

Awarding the Honorary Fellowship, Professor Horgan, a specialist in infectious diseases who trained in this speciality in the US at the height of the HIV/AIDs pandemic, said it was a huge privilege to welcome Dr Fauci to the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Dr Fauci will highlight the importance of science and data in responding to the pandemic, and the importance of always being honest about what this information shows. “We need to hold on to our fundamental principles of integrity … we have a responsibility – in some respects, more than any other field – to make sure that data and evidence drive what we do; that we are consistent; that we never, ever compromise our integrity by [not] going with the science and the evidence, either ignoring it or distorting it.”

Professor Horgan said: “Dr Fauci has long been a highly inspirational figure for medical professionals and scientists around the world, and for me personally, both during my time in the US, and here in Ireland.

“Having trained and worked in the US as an infectious disease specialist myself from 1990-1997, I witnessed Dr Fauci’s outstanding work in overseeing the development of a research portfolio that transformed another pandemic, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, from an inevitably fatal infection to one where infected individuals can, with appropriate treatment, have a normal life expectancy.

“His strong leadership and calm, evidence-based approach have contributed greatly to the US response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The ceremony and conversation between Dr Fauci and Professor Horgan will be premiered by the RCPI at 6.30pm this evening via the RCPI’s YouTube Channel.