The University of Chicago’s School of Public Policy awarded Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the 2020 Harris Dean’s Award during a virtual event on Thursday, March 4, 2021. The event was hosted by Dean Katherine Baicker and featured pre-submitted questions from attendees.
One person asked Dr. Fauci whether he prefers a local or national vaccine distribution policy. Dr. Fauci explained the benefits of a national policy, while seemingly rejecting the efficacy and importance of American federalism:
“[We] have a common enemy, [and] the virus doesn’t know the difference between Louisiana and New Jersey. [Policy makers have] to do things more uniform… [and] that was a weakness in our [initial] response.”
However, Dr. Fauci also conceded that “You do want to leave it to the local groups if they [distribute vaccinations] fairly.”
Another topic discussed was the role of equity in vaccine distribution, an issue Dr. Fauci described as “a high priority” and one that President Biden has made “a strong commitment to” addressing. To follow through with this purported commitment, the Biden Administration created the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, whose job is “[t]o help ensure an equitable response to the pandemic… [and] address [factors of] COVID-19 related health and social inequities.”
The final topic discussed during the event concerned predictions Dr. Fauci has about the future, specifically about the “post-pandemic world.” Dr. Fauci admitted that there are “too many variables” to definitively say when the public can return to normal life:
“The instinct is to say that we have a great vaccine. ‘Why can’t I do whatever I want to do?’ Ultimately we may be able to do that…but not right now…there is too much that we don’t know.”
Dr. Fauci phrased his statements carefully. He avoided discussion of COVID-19’s effect on mental health and suicide rates, and failed to address the cost of the collapse of education quality across the country. Instead, he argued that America might not return to normalcy. And he asserted that Americans must continue to socially isolate, even after being vaccinated.