Dr. David Agus Answers All of Howard’s Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccines

Renowned medical expert also discusses his closet full of black sweaters and working with the new administration

January 19, 2021

Dr. David Agus put Howard, co-host Robin Quivers, and the Stern Show’s listeners’ minds at ease once again on Tuesday morning as he returned to discuss the medical community’s ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19. The renowned physician, author, and University of Southern California professor went into great detail about the inner-workings of the “excellent” new coronavirus vaccines, discussed how their distribution might be managed by President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration, and addressed the specific concerns of several callers wondering if the vaccine was right for them.

Dr. Agus started off by telling Howard there’s no functional difference between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines being distributed. “Take whichever you can get first if it’s your turn to get vaccinated,” he said.

“All four of them block hospitalization and death, 100 percent—which is pretty amazing—with no long-term side-effects,” he continued.

Dr. Agus predicted good things for the future, too. Current vaccines need to be stored in extreme cold, but two more in the works don’t require quite as much special care. As a result, smaller clinics and doctor’s offices will be better equipped to store and distribute them effectively. Perhaps more importantly, a new administration moves into the White House this week and he expects things to change when they take charge of the pandemic response.

“You’re going to see more federal involvement with how to distribute the vaccine and who to give it to,” Dr. Agus said, explaining he believes the Biden administration could very well reach its goal of administering 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days in office. “I think you’re going to be seeing a rejiggering of the whole process when Biden takes over tomorrow,” he continued.

While there are plenty of encouraging developments on the horizon, Dr. Agus advised Howard’s listeners to continue taking the pandemic seriously. Between case numbers soaring and the emergence of new, more transmissible COVID-19 strains, it’s more important than ever for people to continue social distancing, wearing masks, and acting responsibly. Even those who’ve already had COVID-19 are at risk of getting re-infected.

“It doesn’t care if you had it before. It changed its coat a little bit so your old antibodies don’t recognize it. That’s what makes it scary,” he said. “The big question now is will the virus work against these strains?”

Likewise, those who get vaccinated should keep in mind they might still be able to pass the virus along to others. “You still have to wear a mask,” he said. “You don’t have a pass to go hug grandma if you get the vaccine.”

“We still have to practice all the things we’ve been talking about in the past 11 months … especially with the new strain,” Dr. Agus continued.

He ultimately envisioned a “new normal” which allowed for social interactions and getting out of the house but still included safety precautions like virus tracing and asking sick people to wear masks. “I’m going to be able to hug Robin and all of those things we want to do will happen,” he said.

Many frontline workers and at-risk Americans already started receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, but some have no interest in getting inoculated even when it becomes available for them. Howard asked Dr. Agus what message he had for the anti-vaxxers out there.

“First of all, go to the back of the line. We have enough people in this country who want it over the next couple months that it will take up all the supply,” Dr. Agus responded before once again explaining they’re remarkably safe and incredibly effective. “We didn’t rush this vaccine,” he continued. “I don’t see how it could be any better.”

As a frontline worker himself, Dr. Agus has already received the vaccine. “Science really came through,” he said. “I was in tears when I got the vaccine. It really was emotional for me that thousands of men and women across the globe worked on this and I was a recipient, and it enabled me to be healthy in this crazy pandemic.”

Dr. Agus went on to say data shows pregnant and nursing women, transplant patients, and those who’ve previously had COVID should all consider getting the vaccine when they’re eligible. He also spoke to one caller in Missouri who contracted COVID working as a public defender and wondered why people in her line of work weren’t on the priority list for vaccinations. Dr. Agus was moved by her story and promised to share it with the incoming administration. “I will take that message to them, and it certainly makes sense,” he said.

Dr. Agus went on to say he believed Biden truly cared about science and saving lives. To illustrate his point, he recalled an anecdote about their first meeting at a cancer summit in Davos, Switzerland, where he regaled the then-Vice President with a factoid about how elephants can’t get cancer. “Later that night we’re at a reception and across the room I hear someone say, ‘Yo, Elephant Man!’” Dr. Agus recounted. “He’d forgotten my name and was literally calling me Elephant Man among all my peers, but he … wanted to use all of his contacts in Washington to get things done and make things happen quicker.”

While the crux of Howard and Dr. Agus’s conversation dealt with life-or-death matters like pandemic safety and new coronavirus vaccines, the two also spent a few minutes discussing less serious topics. They let loose to a Dr. Agus-themed parody of Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” and Howard got to the bottom of one of the good doctor’s most closely guarded wardrobe secrets.

“You always wear a dark sweater when you are on TV, I notice. Why is this?” Howard asked.

Dr. Agus told Howard the idea actually came from Apple co-founder and noted turtleneck aficionado Steve Jobs. “He said, ‘I want you to wear black and white. It shows the serious of the topic you’re talking about and people will focus on not what you’re wearing but what you’re saying—which is what matters,’” he recalled. As an added bonus, Dr. Agus said he has one less thing to worry about when waking up for work at 3 a.m.

Though his black sweater collection has reached double digits, Dr. Agus assured Howard he still mixes it up when he’s off the clock. “I go wild on the weekend,” he laughed. “I wear jeans and I wear a blue shirt.”

Text Dr. Agus at 310-299-9322 for regular updates and to ask him questions about the latest trends in health.

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