Dr Anthony Fauci has been praised for an interview on the BBC in which he lamented an “anti-science” sentiment in the world’s fight against coronavirus.
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, he was asked how important it was politicians set an example and “follow the science”.
Dr Fauci said: “It’s very important. People look at what their leaders say and do, and you can positively or negatively influence behaviour.
“One of the things I’m concerned about in the United States is that part of the anti science translates maybe into anti vaccine.
“It would really be a shame if we have a safe and effective vaccine, but a substantial proportion of the people do not want to take the vaccine because they don’t trust authority.
“That would really be unfortunate if that’s the case.”
Dr Fauci predicted it will be known before the end of the year whether or not there is a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine, but warned there would not be enough doses to vaccinate everyone before 2021.
His comments come amid reports plans are being made for frontline NHS staff to receive a Covid-19 vaccine within weeks.
The Mail on Sunday said it had seen a staff memo sent earlier this month by Glen Burley, chief executive of George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Warwickshire, explaining that health service organisations had been told “to be prepared to start a Covid-19 staff vaccine programme in early December”.
The newspaper reported the memo added: “The latest intelligence states a coronavirus vaccine should be available this year with NHS staff prioritised prior to Christmas.”
Burley said the vaccine was “expected to be given in two doses, 28 days apart,” the Mail on Sunday said.
Dr Fauci was also asked if President Trump was right to claim the US was “rounding the corner” in its fight against the virus, to which he replied: “No.”
“If you just look at the numbers, I mean you can have opinions about what’s going on but the data speak for themselves. Yesterday we had over 70,000 cases. Additional cases in a day. And we had... a thousand deaths.
“That is an indication that you’re actually going in the wrong direction.”
Dr Fauci said a lack of “uniform adherence” to public health measures lead to the “precarious” coronavirus position in the US, adding he was “sorry to see” that in the UK “after getting hit pretty badly the way we did, you went down to a pretty low level, but now you’re starting to escalate in the same manner that we are here”.
Dr Fauci said a potential coronavirus vaccine, alongside public health measures, could help move the US towards “some form of normality” next year.
He said: “I think when we get a vaccine, and we start getting people vaccinated … over a period of several months into 2021, we will begin to approach some form of normality, depending upon how many people, what proportion of the people, take the vaccine.
“That should be combined with some degree of public health measures. I don’t think that a vaccine alone right off will get us back to normality.
“What I do foresee is that with a successful vaccine, and the continuation of some form of public health measures, as we go and progress through the months of 2021, getting towards the third and fourth quarter, we will see a considerable approach towards some form of normality.”