Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)Patrick Semansky/ Associated Press
After nearly forty years as the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday made what is likely his final appearance in the White House briefing room before he steps down from his positions as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical officer to President Joe Biden. His departing message to the public: get vaccinated before the holidays.
“My final message, maybe the final message I give you from this podium, is, please, for your own safety and the safety of your own family, please get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you’re eligible,” Fauci told reporters.
The remarks come as families around the country prepare to gather for the holidays amid rising cases of various respiratory illnesses, including Covid. Last month saw a record number of hospitalizations for the flu. As my colleague Kiera Butler recently reported, hospitalizations for RSV in children have also skyrocketed.
“Every day for all of those years, I’ve given it everything that I have,” Fauci continued while reflecting on his leadership during the pandemic and beyond. His exit next month will mark the end of decades of public service, during which he oversaw the government’s response to two pandemics: AIDS and Covid. As I’ve previously written:
Before COVID, Fauci was most famous for his handling of HIV/AIDS. As the crisis began, he was harshly critiqued for not adequately marshaling the powers of the federal government to combat the disease under Reagan. ACT UP founder Larry Kramer wrote in 1988 that Fauci’s inaction made him a “murderer.” Since then, Fauci was won back over some activists by chipping away at HIV/AIDS. Peter Staley—who worked alongside Kramer with ACT UP—told us in an interview Fauci was “one of the great heroes in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”
But Fauci’s name is sure to continue living rent-free in Republicans’ minds. After spending most of the pandemic attacking Fauci, the GOP is set to make good on their threats to investigate him.