Dr Anthony Fauci has said there is no immediate need for a Covid-19 booster for fully vaccinated Americans but remained open to the possibility in the future, as reports suggest that one major pharmaceutical company plans to lobby government officials to approve booster shots next week.
Pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced last week that it had observed that its vaccine, while effective against the virus, had “a decline in efficacy against symptomatic disease over time”. The company suggested that as new variants continue to emerge a booster shot after six months “may be beneficial”.
The announcement prompted a rare joint statement from the US Food and Drug Administration [FDA] and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], stating that fully vaccinated Americans did not requite a booster.
Appearing on CNN on Sunday Fauci, president Biden’s chief medical adviser, reiterated the CDC and FDA’s advice but acknowledged the guidance may change in the future.
“This isn’t something we say ‘no we don’t need a boost right now the story has ended forever’. There’s a lot of work going on to examine this in real time to see if we might need a boost,” Fauci said. “But right now, given the data that the CDC and the FDA has, they don’t feel that we have to tell people right now you need to be boosted.”
Reports over the weekend indicated that Pfizer will brief US health officials next week over the need for a third booster shot. The reporting, published in the Washington Post, came as Israel announced it would offer a third booster shot to adults with weak immune systems but was still weighing whether to rollout boosters to the general population.
As Covid-19 vaccination rates continue to plateau around the United States and cases rise in certain areas Fauci urged millions of unvaccinated Americans to “put politics aside” and receive the inoculation.
The country’s leading infectious disease expert appeared on three Sunday morning politics shows, and cautioned that those who remained unvaccinated were particularly vulnerable to the fast spreading Delta variant. The variant was present in over half of new Covid cases over the last two weeks, according to the CDC with 24 states reporting an uptick of at least 10% in total cases. Only 56% of the eligible population, aged 12 and over, are now fully vaccinated in the US.
Appearing on ABC News Fauci said of the variant: “It’s very clear that this is a nasty variant. It has a much greater capacity of transmitting form person to person.”
He added: “The bad news is that we have a very nasty variant, the good news is that we have a vaccine that works against it.”
The comments came as a recent polling and data analysis continues to indicate a substantial and widening political divide in vaccination rates. A report by healthcare non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation published this week found the average vaccination rate in counties that voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election was 35% compared to 46.7% in Biden counties. The analysis also showed that the average gap between red and blue county vaccination rates had increased significantly in less than a month.
Meanwhile, a poll published by ABC News and the Washington Post earlier this month found that 93% of Democrats said they were vaccinated or were planning to get the vaccine, compared with only 49% of Republicans.
“What we’re trying to do is to just put politics aside, this is no time for politics. This is a public health issue and viruses, and public health don’t know the difference between a Democrat and Republican or an Independent,’’ Fauci told ABC.
The public health expert continues to be targeted as a figure of political point scoring by conservative leaders, who have pushed a number of baseless conspiracy theories tied to the release of his emails under freedom of information laws last month.
At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Fauci was targeted by former president Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr during a speech on Friday. The conference has also seen overt support for vaccine hesitancy from some speakers.
During his appearance on CNN, Fauci was played a clip from one event at the conference during which a crowd of attendees cheered as the conservative author Alex Berenson celebrated the fact the Biden administration had reached its vaccination rate targets earlier this month.
Asked to respond, Fauci said: “It’s horrifying. They are cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives. I mean if you just unpack that for a second… it’s almost frightening.”
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