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Fauci urges updated coronavirus footage in White House ‘final message’

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Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert who has served under seven presidents, used his farewell speech on Tuesday at the White House to urge Americans to get updated coronavirus booster shots. to get.

Fauci, 81, has announced he will leave government service next month, stepping down as top medical advisor to President Biden and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which he has led for 38 years.

Fauci appeared in the briefing room alongside White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Ashish Jha, the White House covid-19 response coordinator, as the Biden administration launched a six-week campaign to encourage Americans to take updated photos.

My message and my last message – perhaps the last message I will give you from this podium – is that, for your own safety, for that of your family, you will get your updated covid-19 shot as soon as you are eligible to treat yourself. , your family and your community,” he said.

Fauci became the face of the response to the coronavirus pandemic, receiving widespread praise and harsh criticism as he and his family received death threats. Some Republicans, notably Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have called for Fauci’s resignation, questioning the science behind vaccines, masks and other public health measures and citing conspiracy claims that Fauci would play a role in the origin of the coronavirus.

Jean-Pierre and Jha gave kind words to Fauci, who was reflective in answering reporters’ questions about the toll of the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 6.6 million worldwide, including about 1.1 million confirmed deaths in the United States.

“When I see people in this country – because of the division in our country – not being vaccinated for reasons that have nothing to do with public health, but because of division and ideological differences, it hurts me. because I don’t want anyone to get infected,” he said on Tuesday. “I don’t want anyone to be hospitalized and I don’t want anyone to die of covid. Whether you’re a far-right Republican or a far-left Democrat, I don’t care.”

At one point, Fauci acknowledged how those who wear masks are often singled out, joking to a reporter, “I mean, you’re absolutely right. I mean, I know when you come in and you have a mask and no one has a mask, sometimes you feel a little guilty. You shouldn’t feel guilty. You look great, don’t you?”

Fauci took over the little-known National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984 after coming out of a medical residency at its parent agency, the National Institutes of Health, as a 27-year-old physician. Fauci was seen as a rising star when he joined the NIH in 1968. He eventually advised seven presidents and has been on the frontline of every major health event since then, including AIDS, Ebola, and the 2001 anthrax scare. During that time, the institute grew from an annual budget of $350 million to its current budget of more than $6 billion. .

Fauci was well known and widely quoted in the scientific community before the coronavirus pandemic made him the target of Republican lawmakers and media figures. During the early days of the AIDS epidemic, activists regularly criticized the government for its slow response to the deaths of many members of the LGBT community. In the age of social media and 24-hour news, criticism — and conspiracy theories — directed at Fauci and the government multiplied.

Missteps in the early days of the pandemic, such as failing to recognize that asymptomatic people were the main carriers of the virus and dismissing the need for masks, have seriously damaged its credibility with some people, including Donald Trump, who was killed by the end of Fauci’s expertise questioned. his presidency.

“When you’re dealing with an evolving outbreak with the information, you get changes from week to week and month to month,” Fauci said. “We should probably do better when we talk to the public and explain that this is a dynamic situation that could change.”

“All people hear when they throw it back is, ‘Well, you said we had nothing to worry about,’ so you just have to make sure you always underline the dynamic nature of what you’re dealing with …with,” Fauci added.

Several Republicans — including some in the GOP-controlled House — have pledged to examine Fauci’s handling of the pandemic in the next Congress. Fauci said Tuesday that he will cooperate with any requests from lawmakers.

“If there are oversight hearings, I will absolutely cooperate and testify before Congress,” he said. “You may not know it, but I have testified before Congress a few hundred times over the last 40 years. So I have no problem with witnesses. We can defend and explain and stand by everything we have said. So I have nothing to hide.”

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Fauci previously told The Post that he is not leaving the public square, but hopes to teach, lecture and write while inspiring and educating a younger generation of scientists. He initially planned to retire at the end of Trump’s presidency, but stayed put when Biden asked him to join his administration. Fauci spoke with pride and a sense of accomplishment about his more than two years of oversight of the White House response to the pandemic.

What I want people to remember about what I’ve done is that I’ve given everything I’ve got every day all these years and I’ve never left anything on the pitch,” he said on Tuesday.

Yasmeen Abutaleb contributed to this report.

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