While Fauci noted that the decision will ultimately be left up to federal health agencies, he told reporters at a Thursday press briefing that he believes an additional dose will “likely” be needed for Americans to be considered “fully vaccinated” in the near future, citing recent data out of Israel.
“From my own experience as an immunologist, I would not at all be surprised if the adequate, full regimen for vaccination will likely be three doses,” he said, adding that the booster data from Israel showed a “very clear” and “dramatic” improvement in protection.
Israel has seen a significant decline in vaccine effectiveness over time, reporting a major spike in serious illness among the fully-vaccinated (under the previous two-dose definition) beginning in July. However, Fauci pointed to a study based on data from about 1 million Israelis aged 60 and older that suggested a third dose of the Pfizer jab had “substantial positive impact,” resulting in a ten-fold reduction in severe illness.
While Fauci stressed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have yet to reach a final verdict on boosters, he said there is “good reason to believe” that third doses will not only produce a “strong” immune response in recipients, but a “durable” one.
“And if it is durable, then you’re going to have very likely a three-dose regimen being the routine regimen. But we’ll just have to wait to make sure that’s the case when the data gets presented to the FDA,” he said.
However, though the Joe Biden administration has already begun promoting boosters – with the president himself telling all American adults to receive their third shot within eight months of their last dose – the move has stirred controversy among federal regulators and concerns the White House is moving too quickly on its booster campaign.
Earlier this week, two top executives involved in vaccine research and testing at the FDA resigned, reportedly in protest over a number of blunders made by regulatory agencies, with Biden’s rushed booster announcement being a last straw. He made the address ahead of official approval from the FDA, though the agency had previously backed boosters for those with compromised immune systems and has since acknowledged declining vaccine-induced immunity in the US.
Fauci himself was previously hesitant about additional vaccine doses, saying in July that it was far too soon to discuss boosters, and even stating that Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla had apologized to him for publicizing the company’s work on a third shot at such an early stage.
By mid-August, however, the health adviser changed his stance significantly, instead arguing that Americans would “inevitably” need boosters.
“No vaccine, at least not within this category, is going to have an indefinite amount of protection,” he said at the time.
According to the CDC, nearly 175 million Americans, or just over 52% of the population, have been ‘fully’ vaccinated under the current two-dose regimen (or one-dose for Johnson & Johnson’s formula). ‘Full’ vaccinations among the most vulnerable age group, those 65 and older, is now just shy of 82%.