Immunology expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, joined state leaders in Virginia on January 8 and discussed the COVID-19 vaccine as he asked the help of faith leaders to spread awareness on the vaccine.

During the Facts and Faith Fridays, a weekly webinar which began in March 2020, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shared facts about the respiratory disease, and provided facts to debunk myths surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Dr. Fauci, the United States was the worst hit by COVID-19 with more than 20 million cases and nearly 360,000 deaths due to the virus. The SARS-like disease is also the worst pandemic to hit the world in more than a century.

When you get up there in the church and talk to your brethren, you should be saying that the process was both independent and transparent, and that’s the reason why you need to get vaccinated. —Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Many Americans are skeptical about the quick development of the vaccine. Research and testing of a new vaccine is a long process, usually lasting 10-15 years, but the COVID-19 vaccine only took under a year to develop.

Dr. Fauci said, “That speed was related to extraordinarily breathtaking scientific advances in vaccine platform technologies that allowed us to do in months what normally would’ve taken years.”

In an article in Medical News Today, Dr. Eric J. Yager, an associate professor of microbiology at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Albany, NY, explained that scientists have existing data about coronavirus since they have been studying about the virus for over 50 years. This data largely contributed in speeding up vaccine development.

To boost the confidence of the public in the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Fauci pointed out that the efficacy of the vaccine “was made by an independent body that is beholden not to the government, not to the company, but to the American public.” He added that the Data and Safety Monitoring Board “decided that the data was striking 94-95% efficacious in preventing clinical disease. The FDA makes the final decision as to whether it’s safe and effective enough to go out to the general public.”

Dr. Fauci said the COVID-19 vaccine is still effective against the new strain discovered by UK scientists. “We will also be looking at that very carefully and following it carefully, and if anything changes, then we will be able to make a modification in the vaccine, but right now, the data indicate that the UK mutant is still quite sensitive to the antibodies that are induced by the vaccine.”

A Pew Research survey in December 2020 showed that about four-in-ten (39%) of Americans said they ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ would not get a coronavirus vaccine, but 18% of this group admitted that they could change their decision once more information about the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available and more people get vaccinated.

To get more Americans to trust the COVID-19 vaccine and encourage vaccination, Dr. Fauci asked faith leaders during the online forum to help in informing the public about it. “When you get up there in the church and talk to your brethren, you should be saying that the process was both independent and transparent, and that’s the reason why you need to get vaccinated,” he said.