Characters

DR. FAUCI’S CHRISTMAS

Anthony Fauci – presidential adviser, Covid and AIDS expert and perhaps the world’s most famous and influential doctor – will have the Christmas this year that he would have wanted last year.

Despite Omicron, Fauci and his wife, Dr. Christina Grady, head of t he Bioethics Department at the National Institutes of Health, will spend it – finally – with their three daughters, a family tradition. That’s what he told me in an interview. Last year, they could not be together for Christmas or Thanksgiving.

“I’m planning to have them come from … three separate cities throughout different parts of the country, to come in and spend the Christmas holidays with my wife and I,” he told me with a smile. “They are vaccinated, and … we are vaccinated, and they are very careful and prudent. When they go places in indoor congregate settings, they wear masks. I think we will be safe and will be able to enjoy a good family Christmas, which we have not had in at least two years.”

“I don’t want to intrude, but let’s suppose that all the family is sitting at the table, Are you going to be wearing a mask?” I asked him.

“Absolutely not,” he replied. “When you are in the home with your family and you are vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask.”

Of course, the problem is with those people who don’t want to get the vaccine.

The majority of Coronavirus cases and deaths have been people who are not vaccinated. It’s impossible to blame those who want to be vaccinated but cannot do so in poor parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Only about 100 million people in Africa – about 7.5 percent of the population – have been vaccinated in Africa, according to the World Health Organization. But it is unforgivable to have the opportunity to receive the vaccine in the United States or Europe and not do it – risking everyone around you.

“We have seen that about 80 percent of the people with Coronavirus in emergency rooms and on respiratory support are not vaccinated,” Mary Santimil, a nurse at St. Mary’s hospital in London, told the BBC. “And that scares us. So we think it’s very unjust, egotistical and ignorant for people who, without a real reason, say, ‘No, I don’t want the vaccine.”

Yes, many people have died because of Coronavirus and ignorance. Despite the abundance of vaccines in the United States, there are still 73 million people here who qualify for the vaccine (older than five) and have not gotten it. Some refuse because of religious reasons. Others say they don’t want to put unknown substances into their bodies. But to reject science because of stubbornness or political ideology is a grave mistake that can cost lives. What’s more, it can infect many innocent people.

Are we going to spend the rest of our lives like this, going from one variant to another, with many deaths and infections, I asked Dr. Fauci. “I don’t think so,” he told me. “If we continue to get as many people vaccinated and, importantly, many people boosted, we will not see that situation … Sooner or later there’ll be enough protection either from vaccines and/or people getting infected and recovering.”

The real challenge is to persuade those who don’t want to be vaccinated and to send billions of vaccines to the most remote corners of the planet. It is tremendously unfair that in the United States it’s possible to get a booster at any pharmacy, while in South Africa, where the Omicron variant developed, millions of people cannot get a single dose. Is that our fault, I asked Fauci.

“I have always maintained that we have a moral responsibility as a rich nation to get interventions that are lifesaving to those countries that don’t have the resources,” he told me. “The United States has already donated more vaccines to the developing world than all of the other countries combined. We’ve either given or pledged 1.1 billion doses to low and middle income countries.”

How long will this global pandemic last? “I’m not saying that we’re going to get rid of this in a month or two, or even in six months,” Fauci said. “But I doubt that this is going to keep the way it is right now for a very extended period of time. But I don’t know 100 percent.”

And if Dr. Fauci is not sure, no one is. The Omicron variant, discovered in South Africa just last month, has forced us to rethink all our holiday and travel plans. And 2022 is not looking too good. The world, like a clam in lemon juice, has closed up. And we don’t know when it will open again.

In the meantime, the recommendations from Dr. Fauci and other experts are the same as always: get vaccinated, use masks, keep a safe distance, wash your hands, avoid crowded places and be prudent. But we are all undoubtedly weary. Or worse, feeling an enormous collective exhaustion, coupled with chronic depression.

Even so, every time I speak with Dr. Fauci I am surprised by his enthusiasm. His comments are always encouraging. Each and every day his job is to face death. But his attitude on life is one of a great optimist who doesn’t miss a beat. This man, who has done hundreds of interviews during the pandemic, remembered the name of my daughter he had met in a previous event and sent her greetings before our interview ended. Who does that, in these gray days?

This Christmas, Dr. Fauci will blow out one more candle. He will turn 81 years old on Dec. 24. And he has no plans to retire. As he said recently, he will keep working until Covid 19 is “in the rear view mirror.” That’s a little Christmas gift that should reassure us.

By Jorge Ramos Ávalos

Previous ArticleNext Article
Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”

-