Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview Friday that offering COVID-19 booster vaccines to the entire U.S. population would become an “absolutely essential part” of fighting the pandemic, pointing to Israel’s experience as his justification.
“When you look at the data from Israel, it’s very clear that [the booster] reverses some of the waning effects that you see in people who have been vaccinated for six months or more,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and also chief medical adviser to the president, said on “The Daily” podcast.
As in Israel, he said, booster shots for all twice-vaccinated adults “are going to be an absolutely essential component of our response. Not a bonus, not a luxury, but an absolutely essential part of the program.”
The interview appeared to be part of a lobbying effort by Fauci and other U.S. health officials to expand the availability of booster shots to all adults who have received two Pfizer shots. Currently, boosters are only being offered in the United States to those 65 and older, have underlying medical conditions, or who work or live in high-risk settings or are in long-term care facilities. Last week, Pfizer asked U.S. regulators to extend eligibility of the third shot to all Americans 18 and over.
Other top health officials have been doubtful of the necessity of widening eligibility for the booster.
But Fauci, calling the current plateau in the drop in infections in the U.S. “sobering,” worried that a surge coming at the current baseline of 73,000 daily infections could be devastating. Only by vaccinating more Americans and “aggressively” giving booster shots to those already vaccinated could a further wave of COVID be mitigated, he said.
“If you look at Israel, which has always been a month to a month and a half ahead of us in the dynamics of the outbreak in their vaccine response and every other element, they are seeing a waning of immunity (after six months of vaccination) not only against infection but against hospitalizations and to some extent, death which involved all age groups, not just the elderly,” Fauci said.
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He said it was his opinion that, like Israel, which forged ahead with a booster campaign even before clear scientific studies on the necessity of boosting after six months were available, the U.S. must move forward and not wait for complete data to prove a large-scale booster program is necessary, in order to save more lives.
“We don’t have the proof yet,” he admitted. “The proof will be in the pudding after we get people vaccinated and boosted, and we have a greater durability of protection that doesn't wane as easily.”
If this is done, he said, Americans will realize when looking back that “we were in a public health emergency – we didn’t have the time to do an extensive Phase 2A and Phase 2B study to see whether two doses were better than three, or whether six months was better than eight – we just did what we had to do, and it was lifesaving for millions of people.”