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2022 Forum Discussion With FDA Commissioner Califf

At the 2022 National Health Research Forum, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, was interviewed by Research!America Board Chair Susan Dentzer, president and CEO of America’s Physician Groups, about “A Vision for FDA’s Future.” We’ve excerpted a few of Califf’s comments, below; you can also watch the full conversation.

“Science is just moving at a breathtaking pace, the opportunity to make a difference has never been greater.”

On Pandemic Preparedness:

“We have to prepare for the next emergency ahead of time. It doesn’t work to wait until it happens. We did a lot of great things with the technologies and the development of vaccines, but we’ve lost a million Americans. The attention span tends to be short; we forget. We put it behind us, which is an easy thing to do, but unless we shore up our supplies and prepare for the next one, we’re going to be in the same trouble again.”

On COVID Vaccines:

“We have vaccines and updated boosters that for every round we’ve been through, reduce your risk of death by 80 to 90%, at least. And for those who are unlucky enough to get infected, if they’re high risk, we have antivirals that have the same effect. Now you don’t have to be a brilliant mathematician to see the contingent probabilities and realize that almost no one should be dying from COVID if they simply got the free prevention with vaccines and treatments that are available. But for a whole variety of reasons, we’ve got only about 30 to 40% of Americans up to date on their latest vaccinations.

“Now we’ve got a new round [of vaccines] in progress, and there’s a lot at stake. I think regardless of your beliefs about science or anything else, if you want to spend time with your family over the upcoming holidays and be around for that, probably the single most important thing you can do is get updated on your vaccinations and for doctors and other clinicians get up to date on the use of antivirals.”

On the Importance of Public Service:

“We are in a very unusual time right now. [We’re seeing] a lot of loss of faith in public agencies and public service, in the institutions that have made this country great. So if I’m asked to serve in that capacity, I’ll do it. And I would highly recommend for young people to look for a chance to help serve, even if that’s not your career goal, because what you learn [from public service], I don’t think can be learned anywhere else.”

Watch the full conversation.