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Fauci says future requirement for additional COVID-19 boosters being monitored

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White House chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday said that future requirements for additional boosters or shots are being monitored, just days after he suggested that annual COVID-19 booster shots may not be needed for every American.

“The potential future requirement for an additional boost or a fourth shot for mRNA or a third shot for J&J is being very carefully monitored in real time.  And recommendations, if needed, will be updated according to the data as it evolves,” Fauci said during a press briefing by the White House COVID-19 response team.

Fauci showed hospitalization data he said indicated booster shots are “safe and well-tolerated.” He cited multiple studies of vaccine effectiveness which showed that, for those with a normal immune response, “a single booster shot continues to provide high levels of protection against severe disease caused by omicron,” he added.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

“This should not be confused with the fact that for many immunocompromised people, already a second booster shot, namely a fourth dose of an mRNA, is recommended because of what we know about their poor response to the initial regimen,” Fauci said.

His comments came just days after he suggested that annual booster shots may not be needed for every American, the Financial Times reported.

“It will depend on who you are,” Fauci said. “But if you are a normal, healthy 30-year-old person with no underlying conditions, you might need a booster only every four or five years.”

During that interview, published last Tuesday, he added that the U.S. was nearing the end of the “full-blown” phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and that certain protocols, including mandatory masks in some settings, could end “soon,” according to the paper.

“As we get out of the full-blown pandemic phase, which we are certainly heading out of, these decisions will increasingly be made on a local level rather than centrally decided or mandated,” Fauci said. “There will also be more people making their own decisions on how they want to deal with the virus.”

He noted the timeline for lifting restrictions could happen at some point in 2022.

In the U.S., the seven-day average of cases dropped 40% from the previous week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Daily hospital admission average dropped 28% and the seven-day average of daily deaths dropped 9%, the CDC data added, according to the White House.

During the briefing, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said the U.S. was “moving toward a time when COVID isn’t a crisis but is something we can protect against and treat.”

“We’ve made tremendous progress in our ability to protect ourselves against COVID-19.  75% — three out of every four adults — are fully vaccinated, and two-thirds of eligible adults have gotten their booster shot,” Zients added. “The president and our COVID team are actively planning for this future. As we look forward, we’ll continue to enhance the powerful set of tools that we have at our disposal.  Vaccines, booster shots, tests, and treatments will keep protecting our most vulnerable, including the immunocompromised.”

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, at the same briefing, added that hospital capacity will be a key metric in determining whether the CDC weighs adding new COVID-19 guidance, including the wearing of face masks.

Walensky noted the revised guidelines could come at the end of February or early March.

“We want to give people a break from things like mask-wearing when these metrics are better, and then have the ability to reach for them again should things worsen,” Walensky added.

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