WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner of Food and Drugs at the Food and Drug Administration. Senator Rosen questioned these medical experts on our nation’s pandemic response.
A transcript of the Senator’s full exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.
ROSEN: My office has heard from a number of our local health departments in recent weeks about the challenges they continue to face, not only in addressing COVID-19, but also in preparing to combat COVID alongside the seasonal flu. As we enter flu season, we are again faced with a preventable public health crisis, but this time we can avoid catastrophe by adequately supporting our medical officials on the ground with the resources they need. Dr. John Novak, who leads the Washoe County District Board of Health in northern Nevada, recently explained the critical need to address BOTH flu and COVID prevention, saying QUOTE “The flu vaccination this year is very COVID-related, since they are both respiratory component diseases. The initial symptoms are extremely close in pattern. With the flu season fast upon us, it is extremely important to reduce the number of flu patients that need the same overtaxed medical care.”
Dr. Fauci, can you discuss the importance of concurrent planning for flu shots and our COVID response, and how we should be providing things at the same time, when we get a vaccine, at the same location. How are we going to do that?
FAUCI: First of all, I want to just emphasize what your health officials have already mentioned to you – the importance of getting an influenza vaccine. Because what we don’t want is two conflated respiratory infections at the same time as we enter into the fall and the winter. We want to get as many people vaccinated as possible. The logistics on how you can get them done together I don’t think I can comment on that right now. Perhaps Dr. Redfield can. One of the things I do want to mention, because we’ve seen that in Australia as well as South Africa and Argentina is that if we continue to do as each of us have been saying regarding the kinds of preventative measures of mask wearing, social distancing, avoiding crowds, washing hands, etcetera – as we do that as we get into the fall and the winter for purposes of COVID-19, it is likely that it is going to have a positive impact on the infection rate of influenza because our colleagues in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Australia, have found because of that they’ve had a very low, mild, influenza season. So if we could combine the vaccination as much as we possibly can with influenza, together with the public health measures hopefully we can have a very low level of flu that would not then complicate what will clearly be a challenge in the winter with COVID-19.
ROSEN: I want to ask about some interesting research and any of you can take this if you know about it. I’ve been seeing some interesting information come out recently about the bradykinin peptide and how, when it is overactive, it causes inflammation that could be part of the reason COVID-19 causes this fluid build-up in the lungs. Have you been talking about that research and is that really going to be helpful? I know there are some drugs out there that can help attack this kind of response? Is that a good possibility for treatment?
FAUCI: There are a number of interventions to block and blunt overactive inflammatory response which is relevant as you get into advanced disease. Dexamethasone is a commonly used steroid which blocks inflammation. There are a variety of other trials that are either ongoing or being prepared to look at blocking a variety of other inflammatory indicators such as Cytokines, IL-6, and a variety of others. These are things that are actively pursued. There is no evidence thus far. Except for the dexamethasone evidence that by blocking inflammation you can actually help people with advanced disease and actually decrease mortality. So it’s one of those things that are involved in blocking inflammation.
ROSEN: Thank you. I appreciate that and appreciate everything that you’re doing. I look forward to speaking with you again and continuing to get positive news.