Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday urged patience as studies examine whether additional "booster" vaccines would be another tool in warding off the coronavirus, particularly the highly contagious Delta variant.
Fauci, President Biden's chief medical adviser, called Delta "a very nasty variant" but stressed that the best protection is the current vaccine regimen recommended by U.S. health officials.
Pfizer announced last week that it would seek U.S. and European approval for the booster shot, and on Sunday, Reuters reported that Israel would begin administering a third dose of Pfizer's vaccine to vulnerable adults with weak immune systems. Israel said it was still mulling whether to make the booster available to the general public.
Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," Fauci told host Jake Tapper that U.S. health regulatory agencies have to follow the data, which he said does not yet support the need for a booster shot. The CDC and FDA said last week that they "are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary," but that fully vaccinated Americans do not need additional doses yet.
"What the CDC and the FDA were saying, Jake, is right now, given the data and the information we have, we do not need to give people a third shot — a boost — superimposed upon the two doses you get with the mRNA [Pfizer or Moderna] and the one dose you get with J&J," Fauci said when asked about the discrepancy between Israel and U.S. vaccine policy.
"But that doesn't mean we stop there," the doctor continued. "There are studies being done now, ongoing as we speak, about looking at the feasibility about if and when we should be boosting people. So this isn't something that we say, 'No, we don't need a boost right now. The story's ended forever.' No, there's a lot of work going on to examine this in real time to see if we might need a boost. But right now, given the data that the CDC and FDA have, they don't feel that we need to tell people right now, 'You need to be boosted.'"
Tapper pressed Fauci on whether the public could lose confidence in the CDC and FDA if they eventually back booster shots after saying the additional doses were not needed. Fauci called it a "very good point," but urged the public to understand how the health policy field works.
"Data evolves," Fauci said. "You get more information as the time goes by. So when you get to the point when you have enough information to make a firm recommendation, that's not flip-flopping; that's making recommendations as the data evolves."
Fauci also appeared Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" and ABC's "This Week," where he discussed the Delta variant running rampant in parts of the U.S. where vaccination rates are lagging. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky revealed last week that 99.5 percent of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths were among unvaccinated individuals.
All versions of the coronavirus vaccine protect against severe or critical illness, including from the Delta variant.
“If you’re not vaccinated, you should be concerned, George, because it’s very clear that this is a nasty variant. It has a much greater capability of transmitting from person to person,” Fauci told ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos.
"The vaccines that we are using work extremely well against the Delta variant, particularly in preventing advanced disease that would lead to hospitalization and likely death in some circumstances," he continued.
"So, the vaccines work. I mean, that's the good news/bad news. The bad news is that we have a very nasty variant. And the good news is that we have a vaccine that works against it.”
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