Fauci says booster COVID shot not yet needed to fight variants. Here’s why

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said a third COVID-19 vaccine dose isn’t necessary yet.

Fauci’s comments, made Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” echo a Thursday joint statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, which said fully vaccinated Americans do not need a booster coronavirus shot “at this time.”

Their statement came shortly after Pfizer and BioNTech — the makers of one of the three COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States — said they’re developing an updated version of their vaccine designed to target the highly-contagious delta variant and that they plan to start clinical trials in August if given “regulatory approvals.”

Fauci said on “State of the Union” that booster vaccines “theoretically” could help protect vulnerable people but that the recommendations from the CDC and FDA are based on data and information currently available on the need for boosters. He said, however, that “doesn’t mean we stop there.”

“There are studies being done now, ongoing as we speak, about looking at the feasibility about if and when we should be boosting people,” he told CNN. “So this isn’t something we say ‘no we don’t need a boost right now, the story’s ended forever.’ No, there’s a lot of work going on to examine this in real time to see if we might need a boost.”

Pfizer and BioNTech said Thursday that they plan to publish additional data about their ongoing booster trials and submit the data to the FDA and other regulatory agencies.

While the drugmakers said they believe a third dose of their current vaccine “has the potential to preserve the highest levels of protective efficacy against all currently known variants including Delta,” they’re developing the updated version to remain “vigilant.”

The companies said data released from the Israel Ministry of Health shows vaccine efficacy in “preventing both infection and symptomatic disease” declined six months after vaccination, though “efficacy in preventing serious illness remains high.” Additionally, they said, the delta variant is becoming dominant is some countries.

That’s why they say they “continue to believe that it is likely, based on the totality of the data we have to date, that a third dose may be needed within 6 to 12 months after full vaccination.”

“While protection against severe disease remained high across the full 6 months, a decline in efficacy against symptomatic disease over time and the continued emergence of variants are expected,” the companies said. “Based on the totality of the data they have to date, Pfizer and BioNTech believe that a third dose may be beneficial to maintain the highest levels of protection.”

But the CDC and FDA said in their statement that those who are fully vaccinated are “protected from severe disease and death, including from the variants currently circulating in the country such as Delta,” and don’t need booster shots right now.

“We continue to review any new data as it becomes available and will keep the public informed,” the agencies said. “We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.”

Fauci said on “State of the Union” that formal recommendations from agencies like the CDC and FDA have to be based on data that serves as “evidence that proves we need to go in this direction.”

“Before you get that data there will always be people — well-meaning people and well-meaning companies — will say, ‘You know the way we look at the situation it looks like you might need a booster so lets go ahead and give a booster,’” Fauci said. “But that’s not a formal recommendation.”

Fauci said, however, that “data evolves.”

“You get more information as the time goes by so when you get to the point where you have enough information to make a firm recommendation, that is not flip flopping,” he said on CNN. “That is making recommendations as the data evolves.”

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