Dr. Fauci Answers Your Burning Questions
Coronavirus vaccine immunity can wane and boosters may be needed. That's the message Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shared with Dr. Jennifer Ashton for a special 'Vaccines: What's New, What's Next' Town Hall. It came the same day the head of the CDC recommended boosters for Americans 65, those at severe risk and essential workers. Read on for 5 life-saving points from Dr. Fauci—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Is Delta So Bad We Need Boosters For It?
Dr. Ashton asked why Israel, once a paragon of how to handle a pandemic, was seeing "extremely high case rates and hospitalization." "What happened is that something came along that put a real monkey wrench in things, and that was the Delta variant," said Dr. Fauci. "And as the Delta variant started to become overwhelmingly dominant for the few other relatively smaller proportion of the population that wasn't vaccinated, they were getting infected and you were getting breakthrough infections." The same is happening in the USA. "That's the entire concept that they were putting forth. That over time they were seeing a waning of immunity against infection and mild to moderate disease. That was really substantial—way down. And they were seeing a waning of immunity against severe disease, particularly in the elderly. And for that reason, that's why they made their decision based on their data, that they were going to give a boost. And what happened as the boost came, the levels of antibody against Delta went up extraordinarily high, and you had a much, much greater—sometimes 10 fold increase—in the protection that was formally waning, against not only infection and mild to moderate disease, but it at least in the elderly against severe disease. So what they've shown is that Delta was a bad actor. And over a period of time, the immunity began to wane to the point where they needed to give the booster."
Can We Mix and Match Vaccines and Boosters?
"We are doing clinical trials that are specifically directed at…mix and match," said Dr. Fauci. "So what you do is you get the three vaccines that have been given—the two dose Moderna, the two dose Pfizer and the one dose J&J—and then you give as the quote booster shot, Moderna against Moderna, Moderna against J&J, Moderna against Pfizer. The next group is you take J&J as the boost and say J&J against J&J, J&J against Pfizer, J&J against Moderna. And on and on. Right now, we have the data of what it means when you give Moderna as a boost to the other three—those data are being analyzed, have been submitted for publication. So far things look quite good within the next couple to few weeks, we're going to get data on all of the mix and max combination. So you're really talking a couple to three weeks rather than months to know what the answer to that is."
What's The Most Important Thing We Can Do to End the Pandemic?
Dr. Ashton asked which numbers are important—cases, hospitalizations? "The most important thing we need to do that will influence all" of the bad numbers "is to get the 70 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated in this country who are not vaccinated, that is going to address all of those parameters," said Dr. Fauci. "But obviously the most important parameter is you don't want people to get so sick they're going to be hospitalized and ultimately die. We have 670,000 deaths as you well know in this country, we've got to prevent that. That's the primary thing, but also I believe as an infectious disease person and an immunologist, that it will also be important to prevent infection and mild to moderate disease, because we should not take lightly that anything short of hospitalization is okay. There are plenty of people who get COVID, who don't require hospitalization, who have significant disruption of their lives—you know, including things like financial issues with not being able to go to work or even spreading it to vulnerable people. So clearly severe illness and hospitalization is very important. You don't want to be you're stressing the system. As a physician are very well aware of what that means, because you've seen it firsthand, but there are other aspects of it that we want to make sure we pay attention to when don't just say only hospitalization is the only thing we're worried about."
When Can Young Kids Get Vaccinated?
Regarding vaccines for younger children, Dr. Fauci said, depending on all sorts of approvals, "let's assume that it's like three weeks from now, then you're talking about into the middle to end of October, then kids start getting it. They get their first dose. And three weeks later in the third week in November, they get their boost. Two weeks later, you're talking about in the November, December, if they give the approval at the time, and I want to stay away from making any predictions for the FDA."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.