The country’s top infectious disease expert believes COVID-19 vaccine boosters will be needed to stave off a potential “double whammy” of the highly transmissible coronavirus delta strain and waning immunity this winter — leaving even vaccinated people may be at risk.
“The somewhat unnerving aspect of it is that if you keep the level of the virus dynamics in the community at a high level – obviously the people who are the most and most vulnerable are the unvaccinated – but if you have a virus that As transmissible as delta, in the context of waning immunity, that dynamic will negatively affect even the vaccinated people. So it’s a double whammy,” Fauci said in a pre-recorded interview broadcast on the 2021 STAT summit Tuesday.
“You’ll see breakthrough infections, even more than we’re seeing now in the vaccinated,” he added.
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His comments came as COVID-19 cases increased across the country after a downward trend during the summer months.
Fauci even suggested that a third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine may no longer be a “luxury” but part of the required vaccination process.
“I happen to believe … that a third injection boost to an mRNA should probably be part of the actual standard regimen,” he said.
The seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in the United States has risen by more than 26% in the past three weeks, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On October 24, the CDC reported the seven-day average of cases of 63,800. Three weeks later, on Nov. 14, the CDC reported that the seven-day average had risen to 80,800 — a 26.5% increase.
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Pfizer has asked U.S. regulators to allow boosters of its COVID-19 vaccine to anyone 18 years of age or older, a move stemming from concerns about the increased spread of the coronavirus from vacation travel and gatherings.
Older Americans and other groups especially vulnerable to the virus have had access to a third dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine since September. But the Food and Drug Administration has said it would soon be expanding boosters to younger ages if warranted.
The new study from Pfizer concluded that a booster could restore protection against symptomatic infection to about 95%, even while the extra-infectious delta variant was on the rise. Side effects were similar to those seen in the company’s first two shots.
Some cities and states are not awaiting federal approval and have already expanded access to COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to all adults.
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Arkansas, California, Colorado, New Mexico and New York City announced the expansion in anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 cases heading into the holiday season, when more people stay indoors and travel.
The contagious delta strain is driving more COVID-19 hospitalizations in the mountain west and disruptive outbreaks in the north, a worrying sign of what’s ahead in the US this winter
According to state data, Colorado’s COVID-19 hospitalizations are at their highest peak since December last year, and the health department said 30% of state facilities anticipate a shortage of ICU beds in the coming week. As of Wednesday, Colorado had nearly 1,280 hospitalizations, 80% of which were unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, according to the health department’s data dashboard.
According to the CDC, more than 227 million Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, representing 68.6% of the total population. Earlier this month, U.S. health officials authorized children between the ages of 5 and 11 to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. About 900,000 children received their first dose within the first week of being eligible.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.