Dr. Fauci Just Gave This New Warning to All Americans—Even the Boosted
Here's what the infectious disease expert had to say about the future of the pandemic.
COVID cases are on the rise in the U.S., and while this uptick is so far a far cry from previous surges, it just goes to show that we're not out of the woods just yet. Since April 13, cases have increased by almost 20 percent from the previous week's average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC). The CDC attributes a majority of these cases to the BA.2 variant—a sublineage of Omicron, the introduction of which caused an unpleasant surge during the holiday season. Considering these rising numbers, Anthony Fauci, MD, top White House COVID advisor, has issued a new warning for all Americans—boosted or not.
In an interview with the Tennessean, Fauci commented on the state of the pandemic, noting that there is no clear "end" for the virus. "There's no chance we're going to eliminate SARS-CoV-2," Fauci told the newspaper. "We've only eliminated one viral human pathogen in history—smallpox. And then there are the ones we've eliminated in this country, which are polio and measles."
Unlike vaccination for measles and polio, which generally last for life, immunity from vaccination or exposure to COVID-19 doesn't last all that long, Fauci said. This means that even if you are vaccinated and boosted, you could still be at risk of contracting the virus again. The issue is further compounded, as some Americans don't want to get the COVID vaccine, Fauci said.
However, even amid rising numbers, not all hope is lost, as hospitalizations and death do not seem to be increasing at the same rate as cases. "So, what will likely happen is that, over a period of time, there will be a low level of infection that's present but not necessarily disruptive," Fauci told the Tennessean. "And likely—I don't know how often the interval will be—but likely, we'll get vaccinated somewhat similarly to what we do with the flu."
Fauci's statements coincide with discussions held earlier this month. On April 6, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRPAC) met to discuss the potential of updating existing vaccines to improve effectiveness, and whether or not the process should be similar to the one used to update flu vaccines every year. The committee did not reach a firm conclusion on these topics, as reported by Stat, but Fauci is now suggesting we may have to live with COVID, just as we live with the flu.
When asked about whether he anticipates COVID existing as an "ordinary, seasonal virus," Fauci said it was impossible to say for sure at this point, but that "it seems more likely than not that that will be the case."
For now, getting vaccinated and boosted is the best available strategy, and people who are eligible to receive an additional second booster should consider their individual risk, Fauci said. Currently, the fourth shot is recommended for those over the age of 50 who received their initial booster at least four months prior, as well as for those who are immunocompromised.
"If you're talking to me about a man who's 52 who has diabetes and hypertension, I would recommend that person get a boost," Fauci said, adding that those over 65 should also make an appointment. "If you have someone who's 50, 51, perfectly healthy, athletic, with no underlying conditions, I say it may not be necessary. It depends on your personal risk aversion."
Fauci was also asked about masking on airplanes and public transportation, which became a hot topic after a federal judge in Florida ruled that the CDC mandate was unlawful. Following the ruling, major airlines have dropped the mask mandate. Fauci, however, called the court order "unfortunate."
"I follow the CDC guidelines. And the CDC wanted to extend the mandate for the 15-day period beyond April 18, up to May 3," he said. "The reason they wanted to do that was they wanted to see what the part of infection is during this bit of a surge we're seeing."