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As the country continues its battle against the COVID-19, more people are getting vaccinated, and the number of positive cases continues to decrease, but is the end of the pandemic near?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told the PIX11 Morning News Friday the country is “going in the right direction, and we’re doing it pretty dramatically.”

Fauci told PIX11’s Dan Mannarino COVID-19 cases in the country have continued to drop, but “we don’t want to declare victory prematurely.”

The country needs to continue to work and get as many people vaccinated, and as states continue to open up, those who are not inoculated should continue to wear masks, especially if they’re in states and cities where the vaccination rate is low.

“The best way to get rid of that mask is to get vaccinated,” Fauci said.

Herd immunity

New York and New Jersey are reporting their lowest cases since the start of the pandemic. 

How close are we to declaring “herd immunity?” 

“We don’t know what that threshold number is,” Fauci said.

The infectious disease doctor said the country should focus on getting as many people vaccinated as possible “rather than trying to contort ourselves to figure out what that number is.”

At what point can we declare an end to the pandemic?

Despite seeing a decrease in COVID cases in the tri-state area, Fauci said COVID-19 is a global pandemic, and not every state and city has as low an infection and death rate as New York and New Jersey do.

“It isn’t uniformed throughout the country,” Fauci said. “It’s over when it’s over uniformly.”

“We’ve got to crush this throughout the country and throughout the world. Then we could feel good,” he added.

COVID boosters and breakthrough cases

How certain is it that COVID boosters will be needed and how soon will it be needed?

“I don’t know,” Fauci said of when boosters would be needed. 

Fauci said experts are conducting studies as to when immunity would get to a specific level and when it might be predictive when more breakthrough cases are reported.

The New York Yankees reported breakthrough cases last month. Does that mean the vaccine is less effective? 

Fauci said that is not the case. Millions of people are vaccinated, and the vaccines have about a 94 to 95% effectiveness, there will be a certain percentage of people vaccinated who get infected.

“The breakthroughs don’t indicate efficacy,” he said.

When or if the country sees more breakthroughs, that is when boosters will be looked into.

Fauci remains hopeful it will be years before boosters will be needed.

Mask guidance

If you’re fully vaccinated, do you need to worry about being around those who are unvaccinated? 

Fauci discussed the complexity of society where not everyone is vaccinated and herd immunity hasn’t been reached. 

An establishment might say people need to wear a mask when they walk in, but as an individual, those who are fully vaccinated can feel safe.

Younger kids and vaccines?

When will children younger than 12 be able to receive the vaccine?

Fauci said it may happen as soon as the end of 2021 or early 2022.

What he is certain about is more adolescents between 12 to 15 will be vaccinated, particularly by the time they return to school in the fall. 

Published emails

Over 800 pages of Dr. Fauci’s emails from the first few months of the pandemic have revealed America’s chief medical advisor to be responsive, concerned, and utterly confused by his celebrity-like status.

Fauci told PIX11 News that those emails are being misconstrued by people with agendas. 

“The answer to misconstrue is that one of the problems is that when you get thousands of emails and you have an email, if somebody has an agenda and they wanna make a ‘gotcha point,’ it’s extremely easy to pull a phrase out of an email and just give those words without the context or take an email on one day, which says something that is a little uncertain and then five to 10 days later there’s another email that completely explains it,” he said. “You show one email but not the other email.”

Overall, Fauci said he was fine with the release of the emails. 

“When you’re a public servant, people have access to what you do,” he said.