Dr. Fauci Just Gave This New Warning to Vaccinated People Under 50
The infectious disease expert sounded the alarm as a new variant takes hold of the U.S.
There's no denying that the COVID pandemic has hit older adults the hardest. The risk of getting severely ill from the coronavirus increases with age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Data from the agency also indicates that the pandemic's death toll is heavily disproportionate toward older individuals. The more than one million COVID deaths in the U.S. these past three years have almost entirely impacted Americans 50 years and older, with only around 68,000 total deaths among those younger than that. But as a new COVID threat hits the country, some experts are raising a red flag for a broader range of adults.
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A new Omicron subvariant has just become the dominant COVID variant in the U.S. During a July 12 White House press briefing on the pandemic, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said it is estimated that the BA.5 subvariant now accounts for 65 percent of new coronavirus infections in the nation, per Reuters. This fast-spreading variant overtook the previously dominant Omicron subvariant BA.1.12.1 in just around two months, as BA.5 accounted for less than 1 percent of new COVID cases at the start of May.
To combat BA.5, the White House is now considering expanding eligibility for a second booster shot to all adults under the age of 50, The New York Times reported on July 11. Currently, the second booster is only being offered to those 50 and older, as well as adults who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, and who had received their first booster at least four months prior, according to the CDC.
One official recently told The Washington Post that administration experts under President Joe Biden are worried that the BA.5 subvariant, and its sister subvariant BA.4, "might be a little worse" than prior versions of the virus, as there has been an increase in hospitalization rates alongside the rise of these variants. Data from the CDC shows that new hospital admissions in the U.S. have climbed up by more than 3 percent in the last week alone.
"We have already seen the benefits [of a second booster] in 50 and older," Peter Hotez, MD, a molecular virologist and dean of the National School of Tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told The Washington Post. "Eventually what's true for older people turns out to be true for younger folks—it just takes longer to reveal itself."
Now, the country's most notable virus expert seems to be in favor of expanding eligibility. In an interview with The Washington Post, top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, indicated that he's "leaning" toward allowing second booster shots for younger adults—assuming that the expansion receives regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC.
According to Fauci, urging individuals who are not fully vaccinated to get up-to-date with their shots (which includes the first booster) is the most important goal right now. But he told The Washington Post that "we also need to allow people who are under 50 to get their second booster shot, since it may have been months since many of them got their first booster."
In a separate interview with The New York Times, the infectious disease expert said that while there is not enough clinical data to strongly recommend a second booster shot for those under 50, many of these people could be under-protected because they received their last COVID vaccine dose in November or December. "If I got my third shot [in 2021], it is very likely the immunity is waning," Fauci told The Washington Post, adding to the Times that he thinks "there should be flexibility and permissiveness in at least allowing" a second booster for younger adults.