Dr. Fauci Just Warned of "The Danger" With This Kind of Vaccination

Despite what another White House COVID adviser said, Fauci cautions against doing this with the vaccine.

With the U.S. in a mad dash to vaccinate as many people as possible as soon as possible, medical experts have been suggesting various ways to get more shots in arms more quickly. One of the common suggestions is to focus more intently on administering as many first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines as possible without accounting for the second doses. However, White House chief COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, just warned against this practice, and cautioned people about "the danger" that could come with focusing only on the first dose. To see what Fauci says the risk is, read on, and for the shot seniors should steer clear of, check out If You're Over 65, You Shouldn't Get This New Vaccine, Experts Warn.

Fauci says if you wait too long between shots, new mutations could form.

Woman getting COVID vaccine

On Feb. 2, Fauci warned against administering just the first dose of the COVID vaccine in an effort to immunize as many people as possible without concern for when the second dose will be available. According to Fauci, there are risks involved with using this tactic. "The danger is that the efficacy following a single dose is not as great as after the second dose," Fauci explained during a live Twitter event with The Washington Post. "If you have sub-optimum efficacy, you could, in fact, paradoxically be selecting for more mutations. That's the danger there. … It's taking a chance."

While Fauci didn't elaborate on that last point, some experts have expressed caution that delaying second doses of the vaccine—and therefore delaying the vaccine's maximum potential protection—could lead to an "escape mutant" that could survive and evade shots when they are finally administered, Business Insider points out.

In The Washington Post interview, Fauci reminded viewers that the science behind the clinical trials showed that the optimal approach is receiving your second Pfizer dose 21 days after your first and your second Moderna dose 28 days after your first. He cautioned against straying from this recommendation seeing as the Pfizer vaccine is 52 percent effective after the first dose and the Moderna vaccine is 80.2 percent effective after just one shot. And for more up-to-date COVID news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

But another White House COVID adviser gave opposing advice.

Man getting COVID vaccine

Fauci's comments come after epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, PhD, a member of the White House's COVID advisory board, suggested the U.S. focus on getting the first dose into people's arms ahead of a surge in COVID cases, as a result of the new more transmissible strains of the virus.

"I think right now in advance of this surge, we need to get as many [first vaccine] doses in as many people over 65 as we possibly can to reduce a serious illness and deaths that are going to occur over the weeks ahead," Osterholm said on Meet the Press on Jan. 31. Focusing on administering as many initial shots as possible "can really do a lot to reduce the number of serious illnesses and deaths in this next big surge, which is coming," he added. To see if you can get your shot at the biggest retailer in the U.S., check out If You Live in These States, You Can Now Get Vaccinated at Walmart.

Fauci has a different idea about getting more vaccines administered.

General practitioner vaccinating old patient at home

Fauci told The Washington Post that while Osterholm's idea "isn't completely outlandish," he disagrees with the plan. Fauci said he would prefer to ramp up the availability of the vaccine not only via Pfizer and Moderna, but also with new candidates that are on the horizon, including Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, and Oxford-AstraZeneca. And for more on that first vaccine Fauci mentioned, check out These Are the Side Effects of the New Johnson & Johnson Vaccine.

The CDC says you can spread out vaccine doses up to six weeks.

Doctor wiping spot after giving coronavirus vaccine shot

Despite the differing views on delaying second doses, as of Jan. 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said expanding the window between vaccines is OK in exceptional circumstances.

In an update to its vaccine guidance, the CDC said, "The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible." However, "if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to six weeks (42 days) after the first dose." That update allows states and patients more flexibility to stretch out second doses if absolutely necessary. And to see which vaccine side effects you should view as good news, check out Dr. Fauci Says These 2 Side Effects Mean Your COVID Vaccine Is Working.

The vaccine is one of the best tools to stop the virus from mutating more.

A close up of a blue gloved hand holding a glass vile of coronavirus vaccine dosage

Fauci and Osterholm are both in agreement on one thing—vaccines are one of the best ways to prevent new strains of COVID from evolving. "The best way to prevent the evolution of mutations is to suppress the replication of the virus in the community, which means that we need to vaccinate as many people as quickly as we possibly can do it, as efficiently as we possibly can," Fauci said. To see what he says you should avoid doing after your shot, check out Dr. Fauci Says Doing This After Getting Vaccinated Is a Huge Mistake.

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