No lockdowns, but vaccine requirements may be needed, NIH director says


CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The director of the National Institutes of Health said more vaccine incentives might be necessary to blunt the delta variant surge, but there should not be a need for lockdowns.

“We just have to do what we can to keep the spread down and to convince those unvaccinated people, because if the pandemic’s about them now [then] they need to take action and not stand back and hope somebody else will take care of this,” Dr. Francis Collins said on NewsNation Prime.

“I’m afraid we’re in a world of hurt right now,” he said.

He added that President Joe Biden is avoiding talk of a federal vaccine requirement. But, Collins encouraged businesses to require their employees to be fully vaccinated to return to the office.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a vaccine incentive for state Commonwealth employees in state health care facilities and high-risk congregate-care facilities. The incentive would reward employees with an additional 7.5 to 8 hours of paid time off.

“We want to reward those who have already gotten the vaccine and encourage those who have not yet decided to get the vaccine, to get the vaccine,” Wolf said.

The Governor also pointed to other states and businesses offering similar incentives saying “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

The announcement came nearly two weeks after the President called on state, territorial, and local governments to offer $100 payments to newly vaccinated Americans as an incentive to boost vaccination rates.

Wolf expressed interest in offerings saying, “yeah, I am interested, which is why I’m saying to employees of the commonwealth, get a vaccine, I’ll give you a day off.”

But Collins hoped the uptick in hospitalized children might be enough of a motivating factor for some to get vaccinated. He said there were 1,500 children nationwide in the hospital as of Tuesday.

“If you’re not vaccinated, you’re the one who may be passing this disease on to somebody who has an organ transplant who can’t get an immune response or one of those children under 12 who can’t be vaccinated,” he said.

He said the FDA will give full approval to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines “very soon.”

“That will be one more reason to say let’s do this,” he said.

A new report found at least 900 people have tried to get a third dose of the vaccine, which is not recommended by the Food and Drug Administration or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Collins says they’re keeping an eye on the people who’ve had the vaccine since last year’s clinical trials to see how their immunity is holding up. The CDC and FDA will make a decision about boosters based on their results.

“We’re going to find out by watching the data day after day just as closely as you can imagine,” he said.

Collins and other experts have pointed to vaccines as a way to prevent the virus from mutating further. All three vaccines approved in the U.S. protect against hospitalization and death from the delta variant, but the virus has a chance to change every time it copies itself.

He says the mRNA technology in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines means they could be “quickly” altered and redeployed if need be. “But, we don’t want it to happen,” he said.

“We could have done a better job of preventing this if we just convinced those 90 million people who are still unvaccinated to take advantage of what really is an answer to prayer in terms of safe and effective vaccines,” Collins said.

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