Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health says available COVID-19 vaccines “don’t protect overly well” against infection but can stave off the possibility of hospitalization or death.
The 81-year-old doctor, speaking to Fox News, used his recent bout with the virus as an example. He pointed to his status as a vaccinated-and-boosted person as the reason behind his recovery.
“Even though it didn’t protect me against infection, I feel confident that it made a major role in protecting me from progressing to severe disease,” he said on “Your World” with host Neil Cavuto late Tuesday. “And that’s very likely why I had a relatively mild course.”
Dr. Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Biden and one of the leading voices in the COVID-19 response, also received a round of Paxlovid, an antiviral drug from Pfizer, after catching the virus like many other Americans.
Early in the vaccine push, government officials initially hoped the COVID-19 vaccines would protect people from getting infected at all.
That seemed to be true at first, but the onset of powerful variants of the virus, combined with waning immunity from the shots after several months, blunted that hope.
Fully vaccinated and boosted persons frequently report testing positive. Regulators are working with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to reformulate the shots so they better target the omicron variant and its sublineages, which can evade prior immunity to a degree.
Officials insist that staying up-to-date with available shots remains worth it, pointing to data that suggest most people who take the shots can stave off a bad outcome.
“So my message to people who seem confused because people who are vaccinated get infected — the answer is if you weren’t vaccinated, the likelihood [is] you would have had [a] more severe course than you did have when you were vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci said in the interview.
Omicron’s BA.5 variant, now dominant in new cases in the U.S., spreads very efficiently, causing new concerns for a public trying to move beyond the pandemic.
White House officials said an 18% increase in hospitalizations over the past two weeks is troubling but that, overall, vaccines and other tools have caused hospital stays and deaths to rise at a slower pace than infection cases.
Daily deaths from COVID-19 have averaged around 300 to 400 over the past month. White House COVID-19 Coordinator Ashish Jha said that is an unacceptably high level but said the worst outcomes are avoidable in many cases.
“Even in the face of BA.5, the tools we have continue to work. We are at a point in the pandemic where most COVID-19 deaths are preventable,” Dr. Jha said in a White House briefing on Tuesday.
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.