Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a top medical adviser to President Joe Biden, did the round of Sunday talk shows on Sunday to say COVID-19 vaccine boosters are not needed in the U.S. right now as almost all new cases are in unvaccinated people, but he didn’t rule out that booster shots may be needed over time for certain individuals.
Fauci made the comments ahead of a meeting later Monday between Pfizer Inc. and the Food and Drug Administration to discuss boosters, which Pfizer has said it is already working on, including one aimed specifically at the delta variant of COVID-19, which has become the dominant strain in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world.
Fauci spoke as Israel’s health ministry said it would offer boosters to individuals who are immunocompromised and have already had two shots of the vaccine developed by Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE -1.04% with German partner BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +0.79% . Israel, an early vaccine success story in rapidly getting shots into the arms of its citizens, is struggling with a fresh outbreak of cases, driven by the delta variant, which is far more transmissible than the original virus.
Fauci also sought to answer questions about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance for returning to school in the fall, which includes face masks, social distancing and improved ventilation.
“If you can’t implement them, you should still do everything you can with testing, with guidelines that would allow people, for example, in lunchrooms when you gather, when you’re sick don’t come to school, do everything you can to keep the in-person classes going,” he told the ABC program “This Week.”
Fauci also lamented the sight of conservatives cheering for low vaccination rates, blaming “ideological rigidity” for hobbling the fight against COVID-19.
Speaking Sunday on CNN , Fauci referenced a widely shared video of “COVID contrarian” Alex Berenson speaking Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Texas, where he drew cheers when mentioning how the U.S. government has failed to meet its nationwide vaccination goals.
“It’s horrifying. I mean, they are cheering about someone saying it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives,” he said. “I just don’t get it.
“I think there’s no reason not to get vaccinated. Why are we having red states and places in the South that are very highly ideological in one way, not wanting to get vaccinations? Vaccinations have nothing to do with politics,” he said.
The CDC’s vaccine tracker is showing that 159 million Americans are fully vaccinated, equal to 48% of the total population. That means they have had two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -2.01% vaccine, or one shot of Johnson & Johnson’s /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ -0.39% one-dose regimen. The AstraZeneca /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN -0.70% /zigman2/quotes/203048482/delayed UK:AZN -0.21% vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S.
Among adults 18 and older, 58.8% are fully vaccinated, while 67.6% have received at least one dose, having narrowly missed Biden’s goal, set two months earlier , of having 70% of adults at least partially inoculated by July 4.
Vaccination rates vary widely from state to state, however, with several states, mostly in the South, reporting less than 40% of their populations inoculated, including Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted last week that 99% of COVID-19 related deaths in June were among people who were unvaccinated .
New COVID cases are on the rise in the U.S., averaging 19,302 on Sunday, according to a New York Times tracker, up 60% from the average two weeks ago. And while deaths are still falling, hospitalizations are up 11% from two weeks ago, thanks to such localized outbreaks in states with low vaccination rates.
Elsewhere, the delta variant continues to create havoc in many Asian cities, including Seoul, Hanoi, Bangkok and cities in Indonesia, the Guardian reported.
The WHO-backed Covax program, which aims to get vaccine supply to lower-income countries, will take delivery of more than 100 million doses of the vaccines developed by Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm, said the paper.