Fauci says boosters for all, key to US reaching COVID-19 endemic level
US: Top U.S. infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday it is possible for COVID-19 to be reduced to an endemic illness from the current health emergency next year if the country ramps up vaccination rates.
Booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccines are vital for reaching that point, Fauci said in an interview during the Reuters Total Health conference, which runs virtually from Nov. 15-18.
Experts believe COVID-19 cannot be eliminated and will likely become endemic, meaning it will always be present in the population to some degree, such as the flu or chickenpox.
“To me, if you want to get to endemic, you have got to get the level of infection so low that it does not have an impact on society, on your life, on your economy,” Fauci said. “People will still get infected. People might still get hospitalized, but the level would be so low that we don’t think about it all the time and it doesn’t influence what we do.”
To get there, he said, would take a lot more people rolling up their sleeves for initial COVID-19 shots and boosters.
If the United States makes boosters available for everyone, it is possible the country can get control of the virus by spring of 2022, Fauci added.
Booster shots are currently available – at least six months after completing prior vaccination – to the immunocompromised, those 65 and older and other people at high risk of severe disease or frequent exposure to the virus through their jobs or living situations.
Some states and New York City have expanded booster availability ahead of federal recommendations.
“Look what other countries are doing now about adopting a booster campaign virtually for everybody. I think if we do that, and we do it in earnest, I think by the spring we can have pretty good control of this,” Fauci said.
There is a wide range of opinion as to what might be considered getting the virus under control, Fauci noted. “You could control it at 50,000 cases a day. To me, that’s not good control, and that’s not endemicity that I would accept.”
He disagrees with those who argue that it is time to start learning to live with the virus.
“I don’t want to sit back when we have 70,000 to 85,000 new infections a day and say, ‘Oh, well, we can’t do any better than that. Let’s live with that.’ Sorry, that’s not where we want to be,” he said.
That is why he keeps pushing to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
“For me, endemicity means a lot more people get vaccinated, a lot more people get boosted, and although you don’t eliminate or eradicate it, that infection is not dominating your life,” he said.
Fauci said it is clear that boosters can increase antibodies to a protective level. And while it is too soon to say whether those antibodies will eventually wane, there is a reasonably good chance that booster doses will result in “affinity maturation” – a process in which the booster fine tunes the immune response, increasing its power and durability. “This is a brand new virus,” he said. “We can’t predict.”
Meanwhile, Anti-vaccination sentiment in the U.S. has taken off amid the increase in COVID-19 vaccine mandates across the country.
A majority of these individuals lean right on the political spectrum, despite health professionals pleading that getting vaccinated is a matter of public health rather than politics.
“The thing that is crazy, in my mind, is we are physicians,” Dr. Shikha Jain, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Illinois, said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “We aren’t politicians. This should not be a politicized topic, but so many people have made this so polarizing and politicized.”
While 58% of the country are fully vaccinated and 66.7% have received at least one dose, according to the latest CDC data, there is still a significant number of people who are unvaccinated. And a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that three in 10 individuals would leave their jobs if vaccines became mandatory.
“A year and a half ago when the pandemic started, we were all praying for a miracle,” Jain said. “We were saying, ‘What can we do to save lives and get out of this pandemic?’ A year later, we found exactly what we needed to save lives and to prevent people from dying and getting sick. And now because it’s become so politicized, people aren’t wanting to get something that they were praying for a year ago.” Vaccine refusal is ‘not only hurting yourself’
Vaccine mandates have become more common in the workplace after the FDA granted full approval for the Pfizer (PFE) and Moderna (MRNA) vaccines.
But many workers have opposed these mandates — including frontline workers like firefighters, police officers, and even some health care professionals — and have taken to the streets to protest these rules.
“I would say that not only are lives at stake if people decide not to work, lives are also at stake if those firefighters don’t get vaccinated, if these front line workers don’t get vaccinated,” Jain said. “The thing I think is so important to remember is this vaccine isn’t just there to protect you. It’s very important to protect you, but it’s also there to protect all of those people you come into contact with.”
These frontline workers interact with people on a daily basis, Jain explained, meaning that it’s even more crucial for them to be vaccinated than for people in other lines of work.
“The fact that you’re a firefighter who may not be vaccinated and then might come into contact with needing to save somebody who is immunocompromised or someone who is a child who hasn’t been able to get the vaccine yet, in my mind, it’s a responsibility to your job and to what you’re meant to be doing, which is protecting others,” she said.
– YAHOO NEWS