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Fact check: assertions attributed to Dr Anthony Fauci

Posts shared widely on social media feature a picture of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) alongside two text statements.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

The statements ( here ) can be understood to be paraphrased quotations from Fauci, and this interpretation is supported by comments from users alongside the posts.  

The first statement reads: “Just because thousands of independent doctors are saying that Hydrocyhloroquine [sic] cures all CV-19 patients, it is not valid until we have a major study done.”

This statement aligns partially with a quote made by Fauci during an April 3 appearance on Fox and Friends ( here ). 

During the interview, Fauci said: “Although there is some suggestion with the study that was just mentioned by Dr Oz, granted that there is a suggestion that there is a benefit there, I think we have to be careful that we don’t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug. We still need to do the kinds of studies that definitely prove whether any intervention, not just this one, any intervention is truly safe and effective.”

The study Fauci referred to in the above quote was an online survey of doctors conducted by Sermo (www.sermo.com/about/), with the results released on April 2, 2020 ( here ).  

According to Sermo, 37% of COVID-19 treaters surveyed chose hydroxychloroquine from a list of 15 drug options as the “most effective” therapy against COVID-19. However, the respondents were not asked whether it “cures all CV-19” patients.

The second statement in the social media post reads: “As soon as the CV-19 vaccine is manufactured it must be immediately delivered to health care professionals world wide for immediate human injection. Proper studies can be performed later.”

While vaccine efforts are being fast-tracked, it is untrue that Fauci or the NIH said that a vaccine should be distributed and administered without proper testing.

During his testimony before the Senate on May 12, Fauci mentioned “eight candidate COVID-19 vaccines in clinical development,” highlighting the NIH’s collaboration with the biotech company Moderna in particular. A video and transcript of his full testimony can be found here  , with his remarks on vaccine development starting at 28:10. Fauci says that Moderna’s vaccine candidate “would take about one year to 18 months if we were successful in developing a vaccine,” and that “we are now in Phase I clinical trial with the two doses already fully enrolled. […] The Phase I will directly go into Phase II-III in late spring and early summer. If we are successful, we hope to know that in the late fall and early winter.”   

According to Healthline’s explanation of clinical trial phases ( here ), Phase I of a clinical trial investigates for several months the effects of the treatment on “about 20 to 80 people who have no underlying health conditions.” Phase II “involves several hundred participants who are living with the condition that the new medication is meant to treat,” and Phase III “usually involves up to 3,000 participants who have the condition that the new medication is meant to treat.”  

It is true that traditional rules and timelines in vaccine production have changed amidst the global pandemic in 2020. A Reuters special report ( here ) found that: “Historically, just 6% of vaccine candidates end up making it to market, often after a years-long process that doesn’t draw big investments until testing shows a product is likely to work”.  

In his May 12 testimony, Fauci mentioned “the NIH has launched a public-private partnership called Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV). The purpose of that is to prioritize and accelerate clinical evaluation of therapeutic candidates with near-term potential.” ( visible at 29:39 here ) ACTIV aims to “develop a collaborative framework for prioritizing vaccine and drug candidates, streamlining clinical trials, coordinating regulatory processes and/or leveraging assets among all partners to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 and future pandemics” and “to identify, prioritize and facilitate the entry of some of the most promising candidates into clinical trials.” ( here  ). While the efforts aim to speed up research collaboration and the process of getting a vaccine ready for market, these guidelines do not appear to side-step safety and testing prior to a vaccine approval.   

More of Reuters recent coverage on the development of vaccines to treat COVID-19 can be found here ,  

here , and here  .   

VERDICT

Partly false. Fauci did say that further studies on the benefits of hydroxychloroquine were required. Fauci did not say that a COVID-19 vaccine should be injected as soon as it is manufactured. While a vaccine acceleration framework is in place, it still features phased clinical trials.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here.  

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