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Fauci says too soon to know if COVID booster shot needed

Israel moving ahead with issuing 3rd dose to the immunocompromised; CDC and FDA say extra vaccine unnecessary ‘at this time’

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing  to examine an update from Federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 11, 2021,. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine an update from Federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 11, 2021,. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP)

The top US infectious diseases expert said Sunday that “it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that Americans will need a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming months, but it is too soon for the government to recommend another shot.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration did the right thing last week by pushing back against drugmaker Pfizer’s assertion about a booster within 12 months. Hours after Pfizer’s statement Thursday that it would seek authorization for a third dose, the two agencies said they did not view the booster shots as necessary “at this time.”

Fauci said clinical studies and laboratory data have yet to fully bear out the need for a booster to the current two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson regimen.

“Right now, given the data and the information we have, we do not need to give people a third shot,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we stop there…. There are studies being done now ongoing as we speak, about looking at the feasibility about if and when we should be boosting people.”

He said it was quite possible in the coming months “as data evolves” that the government may urge a booster based on such factors as age and underlying medical conditions. “Certainly, it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely at some time, we will need a boost,” Fauci said.

In Israel,  however, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said that COVID booster shots are now available to at-risk adults, though those trying to book an appointment were told that no such vaccines have been authorized yet.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz at the Abarbanel Mental Health Medical Center, Bat Yam, on June 22, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/FLASH90)

“From now, we’re giving a third shot to people who are immunocompromised,” Horowitz told national broadcaster Kan on Sunday morning, in comments that suggest Israel has overnight become the first country to be offering third vaccine doses.

The Israeli Health Ministry is evaluating whether to offer boosters to the whole population, added Horowitz.

The plans to issue booster shots came amid a report that there is a growing correlation between vaccinated Israelis who have been infected with the Delta variant of the coronavirus and those who were among the first to get the vaccine, possibly indicating that the vaccine’s protection fades over time.

However, many within the Health Ministry believe the data on the matter is still insufficient to draw conclusions, the report said.

The Health Ministry said Sunday that 263 new cases had been detected the day before, with 0.6 percent of tests coming back positive, similar to the rate in recent days, but slightly higher than last month’s positivity rate, which hovered near zero on some days.

There were 3,984 active cases and 47 serious cases. The death toll was at 6,438 after six deaths were confirmed in the last few days, following almost two weeks of no fatalities.

An Israeli girl receives a COVID-19 vaccine injection at a Clalit vaccination center in Jerusalem on June 24, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The ministry said 5,729,178 Israelis have received at least one vaccine dose, and 5,191,909 have been fully vaccinated.

The resurgence of coronavirus in Israel has been largely attributed to the spread of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and is believed to be twice as contagious as the original COVID strain.

Nathan Jeffay contributed to this report.

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