Dr Anthony Fauci, the US epidemiologist who emerged as the face of reason amidst the tide of bigotry that swept through the world in response to Covid-19, is leaving government service.
Fauci said he will leave by the end of the year to “pursue the next chapter of my career”.
The 81-year-old Fauci serves as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and as Chief Adviser to President Joe Biden. He has served seven US presidents – both Republicans and Democrats, starting with Ronald Reagan, including Donald Trump, who publicly squabbled with him and the country’s medical community with his skepticism about the epidemic and harebrained cures, from household cleaning agents to anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine.
“While I am moving on from my current positions, I am not retiring,” Fauci said, adding that he plans to use his learnings from more than 50 years in government service to “advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats”.
Biden said Fauci’s commitment to the work is unwavering, and he does it with an unparalleled spirit, energy, and scientific integrity. He recalled that while he was putting together a team to combat the epidemic as President-elect, one of his first calls was to Fauci to request him to continue as his chief medical advisor.
Fauci had been America’s top epidemiologist for decades, leading the fight against HIV/AIDS and Ebola, but he came to international fame and renown during the Covid-19 pandemic as the world raced to tackle the worst public health crisis in 100 years. Governments around the world sought his guidance, even while he struggled at home to keep his own President and his administration on course.
Fauci spoke many times about India and with Indian media. He called for a complete lockdown as India was taken unawares by the second wave of Covid-19 in early 2021. “I don’t mean shutting down for six months,” he told CNN News18 in May. “You just need to break the chain of transmission. And one can do that by shutting down to the extent possible for two, three weeks, four weeks. And then, as soon as the cases start coming down and you vaccinate more people, then you can get ahead of the trajectory of the outbreak.”
Fauci also made enemies, scores on them, because of his public differences with Trump and his administration’s bungled response to the Covid-19 epidemic. He became the face of measures being taken to mitigate the disease – masking initially and then vaccinating – for science deniers, vaccination skeptics and Trump’s supporters.
Fauci also received death threats; one man was convicted for it.