Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday he would not be surprised to see a three-dose regimen of the COVID-19 vaccine be considered the norm for protecting the population against the virus, citing positive data on boosters from Israel and its potential durability.
Dr. Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said he will leave it up to the Food and Drug Administration and advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine whether a person needs a third dose to be considered “fully vaccinated” with shots from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. Some venues and workplaces are requiring full vaccination, so the distinction will be important once a booster plan is implemented in the U.S.
But Dr. Fauci said that, as an immunologist, it would make sense to him for three doses to become the standard recommendation. He cited a large study in Israel that found a tenfold decrease in the risk of a confirmed infection or severe disease after the booster shots.
“It is entirely understandable why the results I just reported from the Israeli boosters are so dramatic,” said Dr. Fauci during a White House COVID-19 briefing. “It will actually be durable. And if it is durable, then you are likely going to have a three-dose regimen being the main regimen.”
Mr. Biden recently announced a plan to give Americans a booster dose of the Pfizer and Moderna shots eight months after they received their second dose, starting with health care workers and older people who received their first shots back in December.
He said the FDA and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices must sign off on the plan, but announced a start date of Sept. 20, making some wonder if he had gotten ahead of his own experts. The plan might not start on that date if advisers and regulators decide more data are needed to make the call.
Global health officials have criticized wealthy nations for focusing on boosters while poorer countries have yet to receive their initial doses.
The White House says it can protect the American population while serving as a role model for other wealthy nations as it pledges to donate 500 million vaccine doses through the first half of 2022.
“We can do both. We can protect the American people and can contribute to the world, as we are leading the world in vaccine doses donated,” said White House COVID-19 Coordinator Jeff Zients.
Mr. Zients said the administration will continue to lobby the tens of millions of unvaccinated people to get the shot while promoting the third dose.
“Once the FDA and ACIP make their recommendation on boosters, that same intensity of operations and coordination and partnership will be applied to the booster campaign,” he said.
Dr. Fauci said the overall takeaway is that boosters are worth it.
“There’s no doubt from the dramatic data from the Israel study that the boosts that are being now done there and contemplated here support, very strongly, the rationale for such an approach,” Dr. Fauci said.