Grammy-winning Americana singer-songwriter Jason Isbell interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Thursday (Sept. 2) to discuss ways to talk about COVID-19 vaccines with unvaccinated friends and family members, and how to keep concert audiences safe.
“We have a lot of friends and family who are still reluctant to get the vaccine, and I just want to know what can I tell them to convince them that might help,” Isbell told Fauci. “How do I give them confidence in the mRNA [messenger ribonucleic acid] vaccine? What do we say?”
“One of the things that we have to be careful that you don’t do, is to make them actually feel guilty and sort of point your finger at them and say, ‘You’re crazy, you’re stupid,’ or whatever,” Fauci advised. “That just doesn’t work. I don’t think that you’d be doing that, but just in general, you don’t do that. What you’re trying to do is to just get into a conversation or have them articulate to you what are the reasons why they’re hesitant, because some of them are very valid questions. And if you give them the answer to a valid question you might turn them around.”
Fauci said one of the most common concerns is how seemingly quickly the vaccines were created.
“I think you should make it clear to them that even though it’s been less than a year from the time the virus was discovered to the time the vaccine was available, work on that didn’t start in January of 2020,” Fauci said. “The basic and clinical research that led to the ability to rapidly get that vaccine was two decades in the making.”
Isbell, who has been one of the most outspoken country artists in finding solutions to getting safely back on the road, also noted that at his concerts, he requires that attendees either show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative COVID test, and asked Fauci for other ways he can look out for the health and safety of his fans. “I feel safer in those situations than I did before those restrictions were put in place,” Isbell said. “But what else can I do to try to keep the audience safe?”
Fauci recommended that Isbell and other music artists favor outdoor concerts over indoor concerts.
“I think that’s probably the most important thing because it really is true that the risk of infection in an indoor, not-optimally ventilated place [presents a] dramatically higher likelihood of getting infected to an outdoor one. So I think the best thing you can do is, as you say, have as part of the requirement either vaccination or proof of a negative test. That’s good that you do that. Some people might want to wear masks … don’t let them feel guilty about putting a mask on.”
Isbell also joked that he hoped Fauci would say that “yelling out requests is a really good way of spreading the virus” at shows, and that his audience members “should stop yelling out requests.” Fauci replied, “That’s a good idea. You can tell them, Jason, ‘I know what you like. Don’t worry.'”
Isbell also asked Fauci to explain the differences between COVID-19 and a regular flu, and if populations met herd immunity, would the COVID-19 virus be dealt with more similarly to the way a seasonal flu is dealt with?
“It’s not the flu because it spreads much more rapidly and easily, and No. 2, it’s potentially much more dangerous,” Fauci said. “We would like to do better than having seasonal, low-level COVID. We would like, after we get vaccinations for the entire world — which is really something I feel we should play, as a rich country, a major role in doing — we would like to get to the point that the level of infection is so low that it doesn’t return every season — that it just goes on for a while, less and less, and then just disappears. That’s the goal of a real vaccination program.”
Watch the full conversation below: