White House Covid-19 Chief Medical Adviser Anthony S. Fauci said he supports the actions of his sister health agencies to allow boosters for limited populations, describing CDC Director Rochelle Walensky’s decision to modify the recommendation of her scientific advisers as “courageous.”
More than 400,000 Americans received a third dose of Pfizer Inc.'s Covid-19 vaccine at pharmacies over the weekend, on the heels of an authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for those 65 and older or who live in a long-term care facility. The agencies also cleared boosters for anyone who’s at high risk because of their job, an underlying medical condition, or who lives in a high-risk setting such as a prison or homeless shelter.
A panel of advisers for the CDC had recommended boosters only for older Americans and those in long-term care facilities, splitting on boosters due to workplace risk. Walenksy aligned herself with the FDA’s authorization.
“Dr. Walensky made a very good, informed, and, and I thought courageous choice in modifying” the recommendations from the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, Fauci said Tuesday at The Atlantic Festival. “She took the advice of the committee under advisement, and she made a modification.”
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the National Institutes of Health, added that he backs “what the FDA did on the basis of the information they had and on the advice of their advisory committee. I support what the CDC has done.”
Fauci has supported the need for boosters. He rejected the notion that the public health response should only focus on keeping people out of the hospital.
“As a scientist and a public health person, I think it is not entirely correct to” create a dichotomy between waning immunity that protects against hospitalization and death versus waning immunity against infection and mild to moderate disease,” he said.
“It is an assumption that it’s okay to get infected and to get mild and moderate disease, as long as you don’t wind up in the hospital and die. And I have to be open and honest, I reject that.” he said. “We should be preventing people from getting sick from Covid, even if they don’t wind up in the hospital.”
Fauci reiterated that he believes Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines ultimately will require three doses from the start. With the pandemic raging, scientists didn’t have the luxury of time to figure out the exact dosage from the start, especially as the vaccines demonstrated such strong efficacy in both animal studies and clinical trials.
“We were in an emergency situation. So we went with what was really good, a prime and a boost. The track record has shown you that it has saved millions of lives.”
But it’s still unclear when people will need boosters down the line. “We’ll revisit that,” he said. “What I hope is going to happen is that this is going to get to the human immune system of vaccinated people that degree of maturation of response that will really give much more durability to it.”