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Dr. Fauci urges governors to accept FDA approval of COVID vaccine: 'It is a sound process'

Joseph Spector
New York State Team
Dr. Fauci believes 'help is on the way' as he discusses the new COVID-19 vaccines and their distribution timeline.

ALBANY - Dr. Anthony Fauci urged governors on Monday who are concerned about the efficacy of a federally approved COVID-19 vaccine to trust the process.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in particular has received national attention for calling into question a vaccine program developed by the Trump administration and vowed to have a panel of experts review it before any vaccine is distributed in the state.

California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada have also joined together to conduct their own review of any vaccine approved by the Federal Drug Administration.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Washington Post he “doesn’t agree” with states' own review, but understands it.

"I can understand, though I don’t agree with their doing that because what I think they have heard, unfortunately, to what I have referred to a moment ago as mixed messages from Washington," he said.

"So I don’t fault them from wondering what is going on, but I can tell them, if they are listening, and I hope they are, that the process really is a sound process."

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says "we need to own" the pandemic if we are going to solve it.

Fauci said he just hopes any state's review doesn't impede a prompt distribution of a vaccine when it become available.

"I understand why they may want to do it because of the mixed messages, but hopefully I can appeal to them to say: Yes, you can look at the data, but everybody should be looking at the data. There is nothing wrong with that. But trust the process because it is a sound process," Fauci said.

He added that if states do their own review, he hopes "they do it in an expeditious manner that doesn’t delay anything."

New York's plans for its own review drew the ire of President Donald Trump, who on Nov. 14 threatened to withhold a vaccine from his native state because of Cuomo's stance.

"The vaccine will be available to the entire general population with the exception of places like New York state, where for political reasons the governor decided to say, and I don’t think it’s good politically, I think it’s very bad from a health standpoint, but he wants to take his time with the vaccine," Trump said.

More:Trump: COVID-19 vaccine won't be delivered to NY until Cuomo authorizes immediate distribution

More:In Dr. Fauci's words: Why Americans shouldn't fear a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the FDA

Cuomo has countered that he simply doesn't trust the Trump administration to distribute a vaccine fairly and equitably before President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office in January.

Cuomo has tasked his own panel to review any FDA-approved vaccines, which include ones being developed by New York-based companies Pfizer and Regenereon.

"They'll review the approval that the FDA did to make sure it's safe and then I can say to New Yorkers: It's safe, you don't have to trust Trump, because we don't," Cuomo said Nov. 17 on Hot 97, a New York City-based radio station.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave an update on COVID fighting measures during a news conference in Manhattan on Nov. 23, 2020.

Cuomo said he wants to ensure the vaccine also reaches minority communities disproportionally impacted by the virus, which has killed more than 26,000 New Yorkers -- the most of any state in the nation.

On Monday, Cuomo estimated it could take months for the vaccine to be fully distributed across the nation.

"I will wager anyone who wants to wager: It will be at least six months before you hit critical mass," he told reporters. "The vaccine is not going to be here in time to stop an increasing infection rate." 

Other states, including New Jersey, have their own reviews underway to make sure the vaccine is distributed fairly.

New Yorkers are eager to get the vaccine, a Siena College poll Tuesday showed: 69% said they would definitely or probably take it when it becomes available.

“A strong majority of New Yorkers of every stripe — regardless of party, region, race, age, religion, gender or even who they supported in the presidential election — say they will definitely or at least probably get a COVID-19 vaccine if it’s approved by the FDA,” Steven Greenberg, a spokesman for the Siena poll, said in a statement.

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More:COVID vaccine: NJ plans to start inoculating health care workers in mid-December

Joseph Spector is the Government and Politics Editor for the USA TODAY Network's Atlantic Group, overseeing coverage in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany

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