Dr. Fauci Says Doing This Could "Defeat the Purpose" of Your Booster
The top health official says to keep this in mind when getting your third shot.
The currently approved COVID-19 vaccines went a long way in helping to bring down new cases, thanks to how highly effective they are. However, as more data has come in, officials have said that the general public will need boosters to keep people protected from the virus as the strength of the original shots begins to wane. But according to Anthony Fauci, MD, chief White House COVID adviser, there's still one thing to keep in mind when getting your third dose to make sure you see its full protective benefits.
During an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Aug. 19, Fauci was asked about the decision by some to go out and seek a booster of vaccine before the recommended eight-month window between second and third shots. He explained that going in for an additional dose too early "might defeat the purpose" of the booster, adding that scientific data is what led health officials to recommend the gap in shots.
"I wouldn't say [it's] dangerous, but one of the things that we've learned from an immunological standpoint is that if you get a prime and a boost three to four weeks later, you get the maximum effect of a late boost if you give the immune system a chance to mature over a several month period," Fauci explained. However, he also pointed out that the eight-month waiting period was only a recommendation and that ultimately, the timing on when to seek out a booster shot was a personal decision the public would have to make for themselves.
Fauci also took time to defend the shots' efficacy, saying that the need for a third shot was not a sign of them being unable to protect the population from COVID-19. "People should not look at this and say, 'well, does that mean the vaccine doesn't work?' No. The vaccines work," he asserted. "The booster that we're talking about is making sure that that protection, which is very high, lasts for a long period of time at a high level. The vaccines do work, and because of that, we've got to get the unvaccinated people vaccinated."
The top health official defended the use of boosters by citing new data from Israel, where third doses of Pfizer have been available to anyone over the age of 60 since late July. In the large study, a team of researchers from Maccabi Health Services compared results from 149,144 people aged 60 or older who received an additional dose at least a week prior with results from 675,630 from the same age group who had only received the original two doses over January and February. Results found that the Pfizer booster was 86 percent effective at protecting against infection and 92 percent effective against severe infection.
"It is very clear right now that when you give someone a booster…it increases the level of antibody level that's associated with protection to a very, very high level," Fauci said. He added that such research was proof that the decision to make third shots available to the general public "was the right call."
Still, Fauci made sure to clarify that the recent decision to approve third doses for those with compromised immune systems was completely separate from the move to open them up to the general public. "Those people, you're not concerned about the durability, those people never really, as a group, had a very good response to begin with. And that's the reason why for them, it was almost an emergent situation to make sure they get a boost because they never got to the level we wanted them at. It wasn't as if the level was attenuating," he explained.
But Fauci also said that there's no need to wait eight months for a booster in the case of those with weakened immune systems. "We need to get them up right away," he emphasized. "[We should] make sure we don't confuse the immune compromise that we were talking about a week or two ago with what we were talking about now, which was the durability of the protection over time."