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The Path Forward: Combating COVID-19 with NIH Director Francis Collins, MD

National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins joins Washington Post Live on Wednesday, Jan. 6 (Video: The Washington Post)

The National Institutes of Health partnered with biotech company Moderna to create a safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccine and is also at the forefront of developing critical antibody treatments and therapeutics. While the first round of vaccinations commences in the U.S., NIH director Francis Collins, MD, will join The Washington Post’s Frances Stead Sellers for the latest updates on coronavirus treatment, the country’s historic mass inoculation campaign, and how public health officials are combating skepticism and educating the public about vaccines.

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Highlights

NIH director Francis Collins said he would align himself with the FDA's statement that it would be “premature” and “not rooted solidly in the available evidence” to change the way the two authorized covid-19 vaccines are administered following suggestions that the doses be halved to help speed up vaccine rollout. "As soon as you start tinkering with the timing of the doses or even considering, as the Brits are, maybe you don’t have to use the same vaccine for the first or second dose then you’re outside of the scientific data and you’re potentially putting people at risk of not getting a good outcome." (Video: Washington Post Live)
NIH director Francis Collins says immunizing "80, 85 percent" of the country -- or about 300 million people -- could be sufficient in achieving herd immunity. "The doses that we have…should make it possible for something like 100 to 120 million people to at least have received their first dose by the end of March.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
NIH director Francis Collins says he was never pressured by the White House to fire Anthony Fauci. When asked if he would've fired Fauci if pressured by the White House, Collins said, "I would have said I cannot do that. Why would I even consider firing somebody who is such an incredibly important, critical, smart, capable, highly-respected leader in infectious disease in the midst of a pandemic?” (Video: Washington Post Live)
NIH director Francis Collins says the variants we've seen of covid-19 don't "seem to be more severe for people who get infected," but he added the mutations mean "there's more risk of more people getting infected." (Video: Washington Post Live)

Francis Collins, MD

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. was appointed the 16th Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate. He was sworn in on August 17, 2009. On June 6, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his selection of Dr. Collins to continue to serve as the NIH Director. In this role, Dr. Collins oversees the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research.

Dr. Collins is a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project, which culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book. He served as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH from 1993-2008.

Before coming to NIH, Dr. Collins was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of Michigan. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007, and received the National Medal of Science in 2009. In 2020, he was elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (UK) and was also named the 50th winner of the Templeton Prize, which celebrates scientific and spiritual curiosity.

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