Dr. Anthony Fauci and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser went door-to-door in June 2021 to promote the COVID-19 vaccine in the historic Ward 8 of Anacostia in southeast D.C. The duo encountered vaccine hesitancy, which was recorded by PBS for future program on Fauci as part of its “American Masters” series.
“I heard that it doesn’t cure it and it doesn’t stop you from getting it.” pic.twitter.com/DPHfYKqurI
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) March 20, 2023
The neighborhood, predominantly African-American, has been disenfranchised, with low vaccination rates. Fauci, who was the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the time, considered the situation concerning and sought to promote vaccination.
During the visit, a man expressed his refusal to get vaccinated and challenged the doctor and mayor, stating that “the people in America are not settled with the information that’s been given to us right now.” He cited the length of time it took to develop the vaccine and expressed skepticism toward its safety.
Bowser, who stood six feet away from the man, defended the vaccine, stating that she spoke to him only because she had been vaccinated. She emphasized that if a large number of people refused to get vaccinated, the virus would continue to spread, causing more deaths.
Fauci explained that the technology to develop the vaccine had been in development for 20 years, and in 2020, approximately 30,000 people died from the flu compared to the identified 600,000 deaths from COVID-19 as of June 2021. However, the man remained unconvinced and suggested that there was something suspicious about the push for vaccination.
Another woman challenged Fauci and Bowser, stating that she had heard that the vaccine did not cure or prevent the virus. Fauci responded that while there was a rare chance of contracting the virus even after vaccination, the vaccine was highly effective at preventing severe illness.
According to Bowser’s website, there have been at least 60,000 breakthroughs COVID-19 cases in her city.
During the visit, Bowser also expressed concern about states that refused to mandate the vaccine, to which Fauci responded that such states would continue to fuel the outbreak.
The encounter highlighted the challenges faced by public officials in promoting vaccination and countering vaccine hesitancy, particularly in underserved communities. Despite these challenges, vaccination remains a critical tool in the fight against the pandemic, and public officials continue to promote its use.