There are few among us who have been left untouched by the devastation of COVID-19. But very few have had the deeply personal stake in developing a vaccine as has Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert.
Almost exactly a year after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the U.S., and days after the country passed 400,000 deaths, Fauci choked up with emotion as he recalled being brought to tears the first time he learned of a substantial breakthrough in developing a COVID-19 vaccine.
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"It goes deep because one of the vaccines ... was actually developed in my group by my team here at the vaccine research center at the NIAID. That was the Moderna vaccine," he said. "The Pfizer vaccine was very similar in its platform."
Fauci said because they were attempting a "brand new platform" that had never before resulted in a successful vaccine, there were a fair number of skeptics. "But I was very hopeful... that it would work," he said.
And knowing well the similarities in both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Fauci recalls vividly when he first heard about the Pfizer breakthrough.
"I remember it was a Sunday night and I was sitting out on the back deck and I got a phone call from a friend who was the CEO of Pfizer," Fauci told NBCLX. At the time both Pfizer and Moderna were among several pharmaceutical companies working on a vaccine. "The CEO said something like, 'Are you sitting down?' And I said, ‘Oh my goodness. This is either really good news or it's really bad news,' because I knew they were looking at their results. I said ‘Yeah, I’m sitting down.' He said, 'You’re not going to believe this, but it’s like 95% efficacious.' And it was — you know, I started to cry. I really did."
"It was striking, but scientifically interesting, that two vaccines that used the same platforms with the same type of clinical trial came out with exactly the same results even though they were independently tried," Fauci said. "In science that’s a winner, when you can do something completely separate, but have results that were so similar to each other."
Touching only briefly on the emotional toll of 2020 for him personally, Fauci added softly, "It’s been surrealistic. It’s been an extraordinary year."
Watch the full interview: