Myah Ward of Politico Nightly interviewed Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine about the depressing fact that one million Americans have died due to COVID. It’s fair to say that he was outraged by the many thousands of unnecessary deaths, encouraged by Republican politicians and by hostility to science. One man, not mentioned here, could have persuaded his followers to get vaccinated and boosted, as he did. Donald Trump. But while he rightly took credit for the rapid development of vaccines, but did nothing to discourage the anti-vaxxers.

1 million deaths. Did you ever think we’d get here?

For me, the big reckoning was the fact that we’ve not really come to a real national dialogue about what happened after May 1, 2021. That was the day the White House announced that there are so many Covid vaccines that any American who wants to get vaccinated can get vaccinated. Yet we lost another 200,000-300,000 Americans after that date. Those who were defiant to vaccines were overwhelmingly in red states, and the redder the county as measured by Trump voters in the 2020 election, the higher the vaccine refusal and the greater the loss of life.

It wasn’t by accident. It was a deliberate effort by members of the House Freedom Caucus, in the House, some U.S. senators, amplified nightly on Fox News.

I don’t even call it misinformation or disinformation anymore. I call it anti-science aggression, to convince millions of Americans not to take a Covid vaccine. And at least 200,000 Americans between May 1 and the end of 2021 died needlessly from Covid because of it. And everyone’s afraid to talk about it because it’s very unpleasant to have to point out that these deaths occurred along such a strict partisan divide. Even the White House won’t talk about it in that way.

So, with an exhausted public, how would you re-engage Americans at this point? Is it by having these “unpleasant” conversations?

You can understand the first wave of deaths in New York in the spring of 2020. You can even start to understand the second wave of deaths in the summer of 2020, in Texas, in the southern U.S. when we’re just trying to understand it. But then as you move forward, you have to start to come to terms with the fact that a majority of the deaths were probably preventable. And certainly just about all of the deaths after May 1 were preventable. And I think that needs to be front and center. That these are not accidental deaths. The people who lost their lives and died after May 1 were themselves victims of anti-science aggression. If you look at the big-picture threats to the U.S. that we spend billions of dollars every year to combat, like global terrorism, nuclear proliferation, or cyberattacks. Anti-science aggression kills more Americans than all those things combined by far. And yet we don’t recognize it as such. That’s critically important to point that out.

Alongside Americans being “done” with the pandemic, there’s also the concern about Covid funding running out if Congress doesn’t act. How important is this money in your view?

We have to recognize that the mRNA boosters are not holding up as well as we’d like. We’re going to have to probably go — unless we come up with a better technology, which I think we should, but that’s a different matter — we’re gonna need to ask the American people to get boosted yet again. And we’re gonna have to provide those vaccines.

And we’re going to need an ongoing amount of Paxlovid, for instance. I mean, why am I talking to you right now? I’m talking to you right now because I’m the beneficiary of Paxlovid, which I’m on right now, and I’m the beneficiary of having my second booster. And even though it’s not ideal to ask Americans to continue to boost, it’s still going to be essential.

The White House is warning we could see 100 million infections this fall. How do you see this fall and winter unfolding?

I know that’s what the White House is doing, but I don’t quite understand the logic of jumping to fall and winter. We still have two big peaks that are hitting us before fall and winter. We have this current BA.2.12.1, which is now about to become the dominant variant. It’s so transmissible, all you need to do is give a dirty look to that subvariant and you become infected. It’s up there with measles. So that’s issue No. 1. And issue No. 2 is we’ve had a terrible wave of Covid-19 both for the last two summers in Texas in the southern United States. I’m expecting that again. Even before the fall, we’re going to have another wave over the summer from variant TBD, to be determined.