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Dr. Fauci, Azar, NIH healthcare workers receive COVID-19 vaccine

By
Don Jacobson
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, receives his first dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Photo by Patrick Semansky/UPI/Pool
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, receives his first dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Photo by Patrick Semansky/UPI/Pool | License Photo

Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins each received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a public event Tuesday.

The three were among a group of front-line healthcare workers and top federal health officials to get some of the nation's first doses of Moderna's vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, during an event at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md. The vaccine from Pfizer was also available to the recipients at the event.

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Like Vice President Mike Pence Friday and President-elect Joe Biden Monday, the highly visible officials received their vaccinations in a live event to inspire public confidence in the new coronavirus vaccines.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and perhaps the most trusted authority in the country on the pandemic, praised the NIH and its "unprecedented" work in helping develop an effective vaccine less than a year after the first discovery of the novel coronavirus.

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"It is particularly meaningful to me as a member of the NIH for so many years to be receiving today ... a vaccine that essentially had its origination in the fundamental, basic research that's conducted here at NIH by our scientists and as well as by our grantees and contractors over the years," he said.

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The mRNA-1273 vaccine was co-developed by Moderna and NIAID, which is part of the NIH, and supported by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a unit of the Health and Human Services Department.

Moderna's vaccine was authorized last weekend by the Food and Drug Administration.

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"I feel extreme confidence in the safety and the efficacy of this vaccine and I want to encourage everyone who has the opportunity to get vaccinated so that we can have a veil of protection over this country, that would end this pandemic," Fauci said before he was inoculated.

"We at NIH are proud to have taken part in an amazing journey that will save many lives," Collins tweeted before the event.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott were also scheduled to receive vaccinations Tuesday.

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Meanwhile, a NIAID official says the agency is investigating why a handful of people have experienced severe allergic reactions to Pfizer's vaccine.

Alkis Togias, chief of the institute's Allergy, Asthma, and Airway Biology Branch, told CNBC the study will begin within weeks and will examine reports that the vaccine was followed by potentially life-threatening allergic reactions in a few recipients.

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"We are a little bit concerned that people who have had a lot of allergies who have had reactions like this to all kinds of things, not just vaccines, may be afraid to get vaccinated now," Togias said.

"We just don't want that to happen. We want to find a way for them to get vaccinated."

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