Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that while he remained concerned about the threat of the omicron variant of COVID-19 and an ongoing surge in cases linked to the delta strain, the U.S. had all the tools needed to “protect ourselves” including widespread access to booster vaccinations and social distancing measures.
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, made the comments on ABC’s “This Week,” saying preliminary data appears to show the omicron strain has a high degree of transmissibility. You might be able it to bypass some vaccine-based immune protections.
“The somewhat encouraging news is that preliminary data showed that when you get a booster, for example, the third shot of an mRNA, it raises the level of protection high enough that it does then do well against the omicron,” Fauci said Sunday. He added the initial data was yet “another reason to encourage people who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated, but particularly those who are vaccinated to get boosted because that diminution in protection seems to go way back up again.”
“For now, if you want to be optimally protected, absolutely get a booster if you’ve already had your primary vaccination,” he added.
There are approximately 100 million Americans living now eligible for a booster shotPublic health officers have encouraged people to seek out the vaccinations, despite the danger of an omicron variant. Much is still unknown about the strain and the still highly transmissible delta variant remains the dominant one in the U.S. that’s currently driving another wave of infections.
Fauci said Sunday that it’s too soon to tell if boosters will need to be a yearly occurrence and researchers will have to follow the durability of the vaccines over the coming months. He expressed optimism that people who are boosted will reap the long-term benefits.
“I’m hoping, from an immunological standpoint, that that third shot of an mRNA and the second shot of a J&J will give a much greater durability of protection than just the six months or so that we’re seeing right now,” the doctor said.
Fauci stated last week that he believes it to be true only a matter of time before the definition of those “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 includes having a booster shot.
“My own personal opinion … it’s gonna be a matter of when, not if” the definition of “fully vaccinated” changes,” he told CNN.