“Oh my goodness,” Dr. Fauci said. “Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of really understanding.”
Another looming question, he said, is whether survivors who were seriously ill will fully recover.
He described the pandemic as “shining a very bright light on something we’ve known for a very long time” — the health disparities and the harder impact of many illnesses on people of color, particularly African-Americans.
The coronavirus has been a “double whammy” for black people, he said, first because they are more likely to be exposed to the disease by way of their employment in jobs that cannot be done remotely. Second, they are more vulnerable to severe illness from the coronavirus because they have higher rates of underlying conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and chronic lung disease.
Given the disparities, he said, it is essential to focus more resources to control the coronavirus in the areas with high-density African-American populations. But the longer-term solution will take decades, he said, to address the socioeconomic and dietary factors that contribute to so many of the health problems in racial and ethnic groups that have been most affected by the virus.
The global race for vaccines and treatments by myriad companies and governments has led to calls for nonprofit and government-payment methods to ensure that the drugs would be widely available.
While access to vaccines will be essential, Dr. Fauci said it would probably not help if the U.S. government tried to impose price controls on drugmakers. “If you try to enforce things on a company that has multiple different opportunities to do different things, they will walk away.”
He said he had never seen a successful attempt at price controls, and it would be more effective for the government to work with companies and help them in developing products. Then, he said, companies “will in good faith make it available to those groups, countries, nations that really can’t afford it very well.”