The top U.S. infectious disease expert said Sunday he believes millions of Americans who have already been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will eventually need a booster shot to remain sufficiently inoculated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” show “that ultimately the real proper regimen will turn out to be the original two shots, plus a boost,” a third shot of the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or a second shot from the earlier single Johnson & Johnson inoculation.
On Friday, a panel of U.S. health experts rejected giving a third Pfizer dose to all Americans but recommended them for people 65 and older and those with serious health issues.The panel held off on a decision on boosters for those who had been administered Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots.
Fauci said a booster shot decision for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients “is literally a couple to a few weeks away. We're working on that right now to get the data to the [Food & Drug Administration], so they can examine it and make a determination about the boosters for those people. They're not being left behind by any means.”
In all, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 181 million Americans are fully inoculated, but another estimated 70 million people 12 and older remain unvaccinated, either because they are opposed to vaccinations or skeptical of them, think they won’t catch the virus, wary of government officials urging them to get inoculated or some other reason.
Since mid-August, more than 2 million people have already received a booster shot, according to the agency, mainly because the government said people with serious health issues should do so, but also apparently because thousands of people who aren’t ill felt the necessity to get a booster, walked into a clinic and received another jab in the arm.
“I believe that there's a good chance that as we get into the coming months into the next year that you will see the data pointing to the benefit of having a much broader blanket of people” getting a booster shot, he said. “We don't know that for sure now, and that's the reason why data are going to continue to come to the FDA, and they're going to continue to evaluate.”
But until that happens, Fauci told CNN’s “State of the Union” show that he strongly recommends that those who have been vaccinated, unless they fall into an already approved category for a booster shot, wait their turn rather than showing up at a clinic and asking for a shot.
Biden recently ordered businesses with 100 or more workers to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for their workers or require weekly testing, and mandatory jabs for 2.5 million workers for the national government, without the option of weekly tests for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Fauci told NBC that the possibility of a vaccine mandate for air travelers is “still on the table right now.”
But Biden’s vaccination mandate for an estimated 80 million workers remains controversial, with numerous Republican state governors saying they view it as an overreach by Biden.
Republican Governor Tate Reeves of the southern state of Mississippi told CNN, “If this president has the authority to require mandates, what power doesn’t he have?”
“This is not something I’m going to allow him to do,” Reeves said, promising to file suit against the mandate when Biden issues his formal order.
“We believe in personal responsibility,” Reeves said, urging his state’s residents to talk to their physicians before deciding whether to get inoculated.
At the moment, Mississippi, if it were a country, would have the second worst per capita coronavirus death rate in the world, behind only Peru.
Reeves called the death rate statistic “a lagging indicator, which is sad.”
But he added, “Our case numbers have fallen dramatically in the last two weeks,” suggesting that the death rate would eventually fall in tandem.