Fauci says still not clear if China lab leak caused COVID

US COVID chief: "We are planning for the fact that we will inevitably have another pandemic."

 Dr. Anthony Fauci (photo credit: STEFANI REYNOLDS/POOL VIA REUTERS)
Dr. Anthony Fauci
(photo credit: STEFANI REYNOLDS/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Dr. Anthony Fauci once again raised the notion that COVID-19 could have been produced in a biological weapons lab in China and was not a natural occurrence during an interview with Prof. Jonathan Gershoni from Tel Aviv University’s School of Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology.

“Could it be something they were working on in the lab, which escaped from the lab?” Fauci asked. “That is something that we will hopefully get to the bottom of so that people know how best to avoid these things in the future.”

Fauci and Gershoni held a 20-minute video interview that was released on Monday, a day before the Institute for Policy and Strategy at Reichman University’s conference. Event speakers include top ministers and other experts, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Fauci serves as the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is the senior adviser on the coronavirus pandemic to US President Joe Biden.

He said that “We don’t know precisely the origin of the virus, but it was very likely a natural occurrence like SARS-CoV-1, MERS and Ebola.” In those cases, there was a reservoir in an animal species that jumped species and infected humans that then caused an outbreak.

This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus parti (credit: NIAID-RML/FILE PHOTO/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus parti (credit: NIAID-RML/FILE PHOTO/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

“But then again, you need to keep an open mind,” he said.

Fauci noted that China was not transparent when the virus first surfaced, which could have harmed efforts to contain it.

“I believe they could have been a bit more transparent about what was going on there,” but that is often “their pattern,” Fauci said. “They tend to hold back because they don’t want any negative consequences on them.”

On the topic of vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaxxers, Fauci said there are challenges in the US in an era of “push back to anything that comes from authority” – be it from a scientist, physician or government official. He acknowledged that getting a vaccination had become politicized in the US, where “Red states are vaccinated less than Blue states, which does not make any sense.

“There is no room for letting ideological differences impact the public health response,” he said.

When asked whether America did a good job tackling COVID, he admitted that “obviously when you have 750,000 deaths in your country, that does not reflect a great deal of effective preparedness.”

And he said that his country will work to enhance its public health infrastructure to prepare for the future.

“Even as we are struggling through the current outbreak, we are planning… for the fact that we will inevitably have another pandemic.”

As Israel launched its COVID-19 vaccination campaign of children ages five to 11 on Monday, Fauci noted that he did not believe there would be any long-term effects from the vaccine.

“Almost all [adverse events] occur within 45 days,” he explained, “and we have had plenty of time to observe that. So the idea that five, six or 10 years later you are going to see an adverse event – we have just not seen that with vaccines.”

He also spoke about Israel’s agreement with Pfizer, calling the country “lucky that they got their implementation done so quickly and so effectively.” He also said he uses Israel’s booster campaign as an example for why it is important to get the third shot in the US.