The nation’s top infectious disease expert says he believes the definition of being ‘fully vaccinated’ against COVID-19 in the U.S. could change to include booster shots.
Currently, any American who has received both shots of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is considered fully vaccinated.
But Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this may need to change to include extra doses.
‘In my opinion, boosters are ultimately going to become a part of the standard regimen and not just a bonus,’ he told Axios on Tuesday.
It comes as sources told the news organization that the Biden administration is set to announce plans to expand booster shots to all adults in the U.S as early as this week.
Dr Anthony Fauci said he believes that the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ against COVID-19 may be updated in the future. Pictured: Fauci testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee in Washington, DC, November 2021
Booster shots are not included in the definition, but Fauci says he believes this will change due to waning immunity of vaccines. Pictured: A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot at the Haverford Township Municipal Building in Havertown, Pennsylvania, October 2021
In August, boosters were approved for immunocompromised Americans who had received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine after data showed this group was less likely to develop high antibody levels after two doses.
Shortly after, the White House announced booster shots would become available for all Americans starting on September 20 due to data suggesting waning efficacy of the initial shots.
But many scientists, including senior officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), disagreed and argued that the vaccines are still highly effective at preventing severe illness and death.
This led to boosters of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines only being authorized for those aged 65 and older or at high risk due to their jobs or underlying conditions six months later, and Johnson & Johnson shots approved for all adults more than two months later.
The FDA is now expected to authorize Pfizer’s booster for all adults aged 18 and older as early as Thursday, sources told The New York Times.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30.7 million Americans – or 15.7 percent of the population – have received a booster shot, as of Tuesday.
‘As every month goes by, the immunity wanes more and more,’ Fauci told Axios.
‘So as time goes by, you’re going to see more vaccinated people’ fall ill with the virus.
A recent study from the Public Health Institute in Oakland, California, found that the overall effectiveness of the three Covid vaccines available in the U.S fell from 87 percent in March to 48 percent by September.
The Moderna jab was the most effective, but still fell with the risk of infection being reduced from 89 percent to 58 percent.
The Pfizer shot’s efficacy decline from 87 percent protection to 43 percent and the J&J shot saw a drop from 83 percent to 13 percent.
Most breakthrough cases are not severe with fewer than 0.1 percent of fully vaccinated people hospitalized or dying from the virus, according to the CDC.
‘As is always the case, the elderly are more vulnerable, because they’re more likely to have waning of protection over time,’ Fauci told Axios.
CDC data suggest that 70 percent of breakthrough infections that have led to hospitalization have been in adults aged 65 and older.
Because of this, some states and cities have already begun expansion of boosters to all adults, including Arkansas, California, Colorado, New Mexico and New York City.
Fauci said he’s hopeful that U.S. regulators will soon authorize boosters for the entire population.
‘I believe it’s extremely important for people to get boosters, and I am hoping very soon we will see a situation where there won’t be any confusion about who should and should not get boosters,’ he told Axios.