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Dr Anthony Fauci, with Micheál Martin, and Dr Diarmuid O'Shea, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. Picture by Kenneth O Halloran. Kenneth o halloran
Fauci in Ireland

Dr Fauci in Dublin: I'm concerned false info online could lead to further rise in measles cases

Dr Fauci said that he has been ‘extensively’ threatened by anti-vaxxers, but that doctors can’t be afraid to give out factual advice.

DR ANTHONY FAUCI has said that he is “very concerned” about the “normalisation of untruth”, including by anti-vaxxers online, and how it could lead to a further rise in measles cases as people are being discouraged from vaccinating their children. 

Fauci said that anti-vaccination campaigners and conspiracy theorists “gained a lot of strength” during the Covid-19 pandemic, and that a tremendous energy is being put into spewing “anti-science” narratives online. 

The 83-year-old sat down with reporters this evening for a relaxed conversation about his decades-spanning career in medicine and public health. 

It’s a career that has seen him lead America and the world through some of the greatest emergencies of our times – including the HIV/Aids epidemic and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Tonight he was honoured with the prestigious Stearne medal by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland for his “outstanding” contribution to public health for his work as the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and as advisor to the US President during the pandemic.

Fauci shared that he and his wife Christine Grady have a special connection to Ireland, as her family is originally from County Clare, “her surname gives it away,” he quipped. 

The couple would have liked to visit Clare, but their busy timetable and security constraints have made it difficult for them to do much sight-seeing.

Since the start of the pandemic, Fauci has been targeted by anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists, and extremists, who he said have threatened him “extensively”. 

He travelled to Ireland with six security personnel, but did manage to go out for a pint last night. “I’m having a wonderful time in Dublin,” Fauci enthused. 

6E5A4148 Picture by Kenneth O Halloran.

He said that when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, he felt a “moral” obligation to lead people in the US and around the world. 

“I felt a responsibility to the people in Washington and San Francisco and New York, but I also felt a responsibility to the people of Dublin, because what we were doing was being followed by others,” Fauci said. 

He added that the onus on him to lead people was greater because some politicians wanted Covid-19 to “go away like magic”. 

“I said, well, It’s not going to go away like magic. You’ve got to wear a mask, you’ve got to socially distance, and when the vaccines came out, you’ve got to get vaccinated. That’s the advice I gave, even though there was a fair amount of [people taking an] anti-vax and anti-science approach, which is still happening today, and is still dangerous,” Fauci said.

Though he maintains that he has “steadfastly avoided” making political statements, and that neutrality has allowed him to advise seven Presidents going back to Reagan (“I’m a pretty old guy”, he joked) , Fauci was sharply critical of former President Donald Trump’s performance at the start of the pandemic. 

“Trump was, in many respects, denying the seriousness of it early on, which I think meant we lost some time – he wanted so much for it to go away because it was an election year,” he said.

Fauci said that Trump failed to “be a leader” and tell the American public to follow public health advice, initially. 

He wouldn’t be drawn on whether he has concerns about Trump possibly winning the next election, but he did say: “Leadership really matters in a pandemic”. 

Fauci said that though many people want to put the pandemic to the back of their mind, it’s important to acknowledge that it is still ongoing though the worst is over, and its vital that government’s have learned lessons. 

He said that there are two key aspects to handling a pandemic, “preparedness and response”. 

Fauci said it is key that we go on to invest in public health infrastructure, and in the science research that enabled us to produce the Covid-19 vaccines just 11 months on from when the virus was first detected. 

On the rise of misinformation, Fauci expressed concerns that people are being encouraged via misinformation not to have their children vaccinated against diseases like measles. 

Ireland has seen its first rise in measles cases in many years this year, and in the US cases have gone from just a handful per year to a total of 115 last week. 

Fauci explained that when there is a high vaccination rate for measles, imported cases face a “dead end” and outbreaks are avoided, but if vaccination rates start to drop – “we’re all going to be in a lot of troubles”. 

“I don’t want to tell people: “I told you so”. 

Fauci added that it has been proven that there is “zero” link between measles vaccinations and autism. 

He said that though physicians are increasingly facing threats online and in person for giving out factual health advice on vaccinations, it is important that they feel confident and energetic about spreading “the correct information”. 

“I always joke that the people who spread misinformation have nothing else to do – it’s almost like they don’t have any day job – whereas the people who work hard at their discipline, they’re busy,” he said. 

Fauci said that the way public health figures are currently being targeted is putting medics off specialising in the field, but that ultimately, he believes that despite the harassment being faced, more people will pursue careers in public health, because the pandemic has shown how vital it is.


Have you seen fake stories about healthcare online recently? Our new FactCheck Knowledge Bank provides tools for spotting false news and finding good information.