Dr. Fauci Just Gave His "Final Message." Here's the Advice He's Leaving Us With.
The top health official had some parting advice after decades of service.
Throughout the pandemic, Anthony Fauci, MD, became a household name as the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and current chief COVID adviser to the White House. A fixture at press briefings and a nearly constant guest on news programs throughout the health crisis, he was often tasked with explaining new information to the public, offering his guidance and expertise to help make sense of the rapidly changing situation and inform the nation.
After decades of public service, the top health official is stepping down at the end of the year—but not without one last recommendation. Read on for the advice Fauci had during his "final message" to the public this week.
Fauci's retirement marks the end of a very long career in public health.
While he may have only become a familiar face in the nearly three years since COVID first appeared, Fauci has served for decades as a public health official. But this past summer, he announced that at the age of 81, he would step down from his current appointed positions "to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field."
During a press briefing on Nov. 22, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre introduced Fauci "one more time," heralding his service under seven presidents and handling of health crises including HIV/AIDS and Ebola during his tenure, ABC News reported. In his ultimate address, he remained appreciative while reflecting on his long career.
"I think what I've accomplished in my 54 years at the [National Institutes of Health] NIH and my 38 years as the director of NIAID, although COVID is really really very important, it is a fragment of the total 40 years that I've been doing it," Fauci responded when asked how he would like his career to be remembered. "I'll let other people judge the value or not of my accomplishments, but what I would like people to remember about what I've done is that every day for all of those years, I've given it everything that I have, and I've never left anything on the field."
He had one last piece of advice to share with the public.
The top health official didn't sign off without offering a last bit of guidance. During the press briefing, Fauci took a moment to give Americans one more piece of advice before stepping down from his role.
"My message—and my final message, maybe the final message I give you from this podium—is that please, for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you're eligible to protect yourself, your family and your community," Fauci said.
Later during the briefing, the outgoing official adviser pushed back against the idea that supplemental boosters were unnecessary. "Immunity and protection wane over time," he said. "You need to update the protection we know is good protection."
A new study has just shed light on how much protection the latest boosters offer.
While Fauci has long advocated for the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, his comments also come as new research shows how protective the latest version of the shots can be.
The latest information comes from a study published on Nov. 22 in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Analysis of data from more than 360,000 people found that the latest bivalent mRNA boosters from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech "provided significant additional protection against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection" in patients who had received up to four previous doses.
According to the findings, boosters given at least eight months apart provided a relative vaccine effectiveness of 56 percent for people between the ages of 18 and 49 compared to the original doses, The Guardian reports. The study also found that it offered 48 percent relative effectiveness for patients between 50 and 64 years old and 43 percent for those 65 and older. By comparison, the boosters only provided a range of 28 to 31 percent protection when the doses were spaced out by two to three months.
However, the study's authors cautioned that some participants may not have accurately reported their vaccination status, past infections, or other underlying medical issues, which could have skewed data.
Fauci is optimistic we're "not going to see a repeat" of last season's COVID spike.
So far, the campaign to get the public to get boosted appears to have stalled. Only 35,272,874 updated shots have been administered to patients aged five or older as of Nov. 22—which is just 11.3 percent of the eligible population, according to CDC data.
But in his final briefing, Fauci still remained optimistic that this upcoming winter may not be as dire as last year's record-breaking COVID spike. He said that thanks to a combination of vaccinations and previous infections, there would be "enough community protection that we're not going to see a repeat of what we saw last year at this time" when Omicron first emerged, The New York Times reports.
Other top officials also had faith that this season would be more manageable. In a press briefing, Ashish K. Jha, MD, COVID-19 response coordinator for the White House, felt confident that the situation could remain under control so long as shots still rolled out.
"Nothing I have seen in the subvariants makes me believe that we can't manage our way through it effectively, especially if people step up and get their vaccine," he said.