WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump again touted the use of an anti-malarial drug as a treatment for the coronavirus Wednesday, even as the country’s top infectious disease expert debunked it as a cure for the illness.
“I happen to believe in hydroxychloroquine,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I used it. Many, many people agree with me.”
The country’s Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, recently withdrew an order allowing the drug’s use as an emergency treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Trump says he used it two months ago.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the long-time director of the country’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC’s Good Morning America television show on Tuesday, "I'll go along with the FDA.
“The overwhelming prevailing clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine have indicated that it is not effective in coronavirus disease," Fauci said.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told CBS on Wednesday that Trump has a “positive outlook” on the drug’s potential as a “prophylaxis” in the early stages.
“He wants to save lives. That is his goal here,” she said. “That is why he’s promoting this drug as a prophylaxis but only in consultation with your doctor.”
Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro also came to the president’s defense in calling for the use of hydroxychloroquine, telling CNN the government is “sitting on millions of doses” of the drug.
On Tuesday, however, Twitter said it had curtailed access to the social media site for 12 hours for Donald Trump, Jr., one of Trump’s sons. Twitter said a video that the younger Trump posted of doctors discussing hydroxychloroquine violated the site's misinformation policy on COVID-19.
Fauci, in an interview with the Associated Press, warned that while significant progress is being made on potential vaccines around the world, the public must be convinced they are safe, effective and necessary.
He said development of a coronavirus vaccine is moving quickly because of "the urgency of the situation." But that may also raise concerns vaccines may not be safe.
Fauci said it will take considerable community outreach to reassure people. “We want to make sure that we're very transparent, that people appreciate that that speed is not compromising safety, nor is it compromising scientific integrity,” he said.
Fauci said health officials and political leaders will also have to deal with people who do not believe any vaccinations are safe, as well as those with anti-science views and people who just do not want to be told what to do.
He said, “Those are all obstacles we have to take head on and we've got to make as much open, honest and transparent outreach to the community to convince them that getting vaccinated is for their benefit and the benefit of the community.”
Fauci also expressed concern about the recent surges of COVID-19 cases throughout large portions of the United States. He said there are five things that anybody can do that he believes can prevent a resurgence of the virus. He said, “Wearing of masks. Avoid crowds and congregations of people. Stay physically distant, 10 feet. Close the bars. That's where a lot of the transmission takes place, and practice personal hygiene like washing your hands."
More than 4.3 million people in the U.S. have been infected by the coronavirus and the death toll is nearing 150,000, with both figures the highest national totals across the globe.