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Fauci says 'mix and match' strategy for COVID-19 vaccine boosters still on the table

Michael Wilner, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

Fauci said that in the coming weeks, Americans can expect to see an “expanding” of eligibility as new data comes in. “The recommendation for boosting will likely go to a younger and younger group, and not just 65 and older,” he said.

So far, a Food and Drug Administration panel has limited its recommendation for booster shot eligibility to individuals 65 and older and those who are at particularly high risk because of other health issues.

But those who are currently eligible, along with health workers required to get boosters, would make up the “majority” of the U.S. population, Fauci said.

Once children between 5 and 11 years old become eligible for vaccination — likely in the next few weeks, pending FDA approval — and another 70 million people get their first vaccinations, the country will be well-equipped to enter the fall and winter months to fight additional surges of COVID-19, Fauci said.

“We are in a good potential place. I want to make sure you understand that if we don’t get those people vaccinated, we are not going to be in a good place,” he said.

“We have 70 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not vaccinated,” he said. “As long as they remain unvaccinated, the delta variant is going to have a lot of vulnerable targets. 70 million people is a lot of vulnerable people.”

While other coronavirus variants have emerged — the beta and mu variants may evade the vaccines better than delta — Fauci said his primary concern is still the delta variant because of its high transmissibility. “That’s the reason why, right now, we need to focus on delta, because it’s the big tough guy on the block,” he said.

 

This fall and winter is unlikely to be as troubling as last year during the deadliest phase of the pandemic.

“If we implement a vaccine program for the people who are thus far unvaccinated, we could have a very different — in a positive sense — fall and winter,” he said. “If we don’t succeed in getting the overwhelming majority of people in that group vaccinated, we could have a tough time this winter.”

As the days get shorter, the nights get colder and more events are forced inside, vaccinated people can expect federal mask recommendations for indoor gatherings to continue for some time, he said.

“It’s going to be a numbers game,” Fauci said.

“You’re going to have the mask recommendation for vaccinated people indoors so long as you’re averaging 150,000 new cases a day,” he said. “When the dynamics of the outbreak change, and you get very, very much fewer infections per day, then I think you’ll see a relaxation of the mask recommendation.”

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