Redefining what it means to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is “on the table,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday, as the administration promotes a vaccine series, plus a booster, as the best way to protect against the coronavirus and its surging omicron variant.
“There’s no doubt that optimum vaccination is with a booster,” Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has resisted calls to update the definition of fully vaccinated from one shot of the Johnson & Johnson version or two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. About a quarter of eligible Americans haven’t come forward for at least one dose, and officials are focusing on getting them some level of protection while shoring up people who got vaccinated long ago.
“Whether or not the CDC is going to change that, it certainly is on the table and open for discussion. I’m not sure exactly when that will happen. But I think people should not lose sight of the message that there’s no doubt if you want to be optimally protected, you should get your booster,” Dr. Fauci said.
Dr. Fauci said some of the discussion is about “semantics.” The booster provides the best protection, while mandates at businesses and institutions typically adhere to the CDC definition of fully vaccinated.
Yet some institutions say three doses should be the bare minimum instead of two.
Georgetown University, American University and George Washington University all said faculty, staff and students who report to their Washington campuses must get a booster shot by late January to early February, a position that other colleges are likely to follow.
The Metropolitan Opera in New York City said it will require boosters for audience members and staff as of Jan. 17.
Former Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said it will be difficult for the federal government to change the definition of fully vaccinated while the vaccines are under an emergency use authorization. Pfizer’s vaccine is fully licensed, but its booster program is under an emergency use authorization and the other brands are operating under an EUA across the board.
“Changing that definition is a difficult endeavor,” Dr. Gottlieb told CNBC. “Local governments are going to do it well before the federal government, and a lot of private businesses are going to be doing that. Colleges are already doing it.”
Schools are demanding extra shots as the nation braces for a likely surge in COVID-19 this winter.
The omicron variant appears to have an unprecedented ability to spread through communities. Reports from South Africa suggest the variant causes milder disease, but officials caution that may be due to existing protection from vaccination or prior infection.
Health, The New York Today