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Fauci pleads with Americans to get COVID shot in final White House briefing

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. health official celebrated and vilified as the face of the country’s COVID-19 pandemic response, used his final White House briefing on Tuesday to denounce division and promote vaccines.

November 23, 2022
By Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt
23 November 2022

By Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Dr. Anthony Fauci, the
U.S. health official celebrated and vilified as the face of the
country’s COVID-19 pandemic response, used his final White House
briefing on Tuesday to denounce division and promote vaccines.

Fauci, who plans to retire soon as President Joe Biden’s top
medical adviser and top U.S. infectious disease official, has
dealt with the thorny questions around health crises from
HIV/AIDS to avian flu and Ebola.

But it was his handling of COVID – and his blunt assessments
from the White House podium that Americans needed to change
their behavior in light of the pandemic – that made him a hero
to public health advocates while serving under President Donald
Trump, a villain to some on the right and an unusual celebrity
among bureaucratic officials used to toiling in obscurity. Fauci
has regularly been subjected to death threats for his efforts.

True to form, Fauci used the final press briefing to
strongly encourage Americans to get COVID vaccines and booster
shots, and touted the effectiveness of masks, all of which
became partisan totems in the United States.

The United States leads the world in recorded COVID-19
deaths with more than one million.

After 13 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines given worldwide,
Fauci said, there is “clearly an extensive body of information”
that indicates that they are safe.

“When I see people in this country because of the
divisiveness in our country … not getting vaccinated for
reasons that have nothing to do with public health, but have to
do because of divisiveness and ideological differences, as a
physician, it pains me,” Fauci said.

“I don’t want to see anybody hospitalized, and I don’t want
to see anybody die from COVID. Whether you’re a far-right
Republican or a far-left Democrat, doesn’t make any difference
to me.”

Fauci is stepping down in December after 54 years of public
service. The 81-year-old has headed the U.S. National Institute
of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National
Institutes of Health, since 1984.

The veteran immunologist has served as an adviser to seven
U.S. presidents beginning with Republican Ronald Reagan. He made
his first appearance at the White House press briefing in 2001.

Republican lawmakers including fierce critic Senator Rand
Paul, with whom Fauci tangled during Senate hearings, have vowed
to investigate him when they take control of the House of
Representatives following November’s congressional elections.

On Tuesday, Fauci said he “will absolutely cooperate fully”
in any congressional oversight hearings launched by Republicans
next year.

(Writing by Trevor Hunnicutt
Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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