Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that he “absolutely” recommends that every adult get a booster shot for the coronavirus, now that the Food and Drug Administration has approved COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all adults.
Dr. Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said adults who received the two-shot Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines more than six months ago should get a booster.
The same rule of thumb applies for people who received the single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine more than two months ago.
“Just go out and get boosted,” Dr. Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We know they are safe and highly effective.”
With the holiday season fast approaching, Dr. Fauci said now is a good time to get a booster shot and families who are fully vaccinated should feel free to celebrate Thanksgiving together.
He also urged people to wear masks when traveling in public places where the vaccinated status of the people around them is unknown.
The FDA on Friday approved booster shots for all adults, opening a new chapter in the vaccine rollout and allowing the Biden administration to catch up to states that advised residents to seek an extra dose regardless of eligibility.
Senior regulators said they want to act quickly to backfill waning immunity and streamline rules that began to splinter across the country.
“Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA has worked to make timely public health decisions as the pandemic evolves,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said. “Authorizing the use of a single booster dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 18 years of age and older helps to provide continued protection against COVID-19, including the serious consequences that can occur, such as hospitalization and death.”
The FDA authorizations arrive as cases are starting to rise on the advent of the holiday shopping and travel season. Scientists are particularly worried that older persons will see bad outcomes from COVID-19 because they tend to be furthest from their initial vaccine series.
Regulators decided to bypass an advisory committee that pumped the brakes on widespread boosters in September.
A separate panel that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that persons over 18 “may” get the boosters and those over age 50 “should” get a booster.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky accepted those recommendations late Friday, clearing the way for the booster rollout to widen significantly by the weekend.
President Biden has pushed to provide booster shots to all Americans since August, when he saw data from Israel showing the antibody response provided by initial vaccination tends to wane after six months. He is fighting the pandemic on two fronts, using mandates to draw in more than 60 million eligible Americans who haven’t come forward for any doses, while offering extra doses to people who got vaccinated first.
How far the shots have waned varies depending on who is studied, including their age and where they live, and how far out they are from their initial vaccinations. But effectiveness against symptomatic infection has generally dropped to between 40% to 70%, while protection against hospitalization and death is typically at least 80%.
The number of coronavirus cases has been on the rise again in the United States, reaching 100,000 new cases per day and leaving some to conclude the nation is on the verge of winter surge.
Europe also is reeling from a wave of new daily infections.
Dr. Fauci said the uptick in cases is not unexpected, given that people spend more time indoors during the winter and that immunity provided by the vaccines wanes over time.
He said the best way to address the problem is for the roughly 60 million people in the United States who have not been vaccinated to get vaccinated.
“The bottom-line common denominator of all of this is we should get vaccinated if you are not vaccinated and get boosted if you have been vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci said.