Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a CNN interview Wednesday it’s only a matter of time before the definition of “fully vaccinated” changes from two shots to three.
Reacting to Pfizer’s declaration that data indicates protection against the omicron variant improves with a third dose, CNN’s Kate Bolduan asked the White House coronavirus adviser if the definition of fully vaccinated should be changed.
“My own personal opinion, Kate, is what you said is correct. It’s going to be a matter of when, not if,” Fauci said.
Earlier Wednesday, Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement that while “two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine.”
“Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
However, a new study released Tuesday indicates the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is considerably less effective against the new variant.
There are 40 times fewer antibodies in recipients of the Pfizer vaccine to fight omicron than there are for other variants, according to he pre-print study by researchers at the African Health Research Institute. The participants were “fully vaccinated” but had not received a booster shot.
So far, the omicron variant, detected in at least 19 U.S. states and nearly 50 countries since the Thanksgiving holiday, appears to be much more contagious than the common delta strain but milder in its impact, according to researchers. Omicron has more mutations than any other variant, with a total of 50, including 30 on its spike protein, which is the part of the virus targeted by the vaccines.
Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson are both working on a vaccine to target omicron. Moderna said it’s developing a booster shot for omicron that could be ready by March.
Last week Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said the current crop of COVID-19 vaccines will not effectively handle the new omicron variant.
See Fauci’s remarks:
CNN’s Kate Bouldon talks Fauci into agreeing the definition of being “fully vaccinated” should be updated to mean having had a booster: “My own personal opinion, Kate, is what you said is correct. It’s going to be a matter of when, not if.” pic.twitter.com/pebLUDdEfT
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) December 8, 2021
Also on Wednesday, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said that when the new omicron vaccine comes out, people will probably need three shots to be fully vaccinated. That means those who are getting a booster shot now likely will need to have a total of six shots to comply with the official guidance.
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) December 8, 2021
However, Kyle Lamb, a researcher for Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, pointed out that in South Africa, where about 75% of the cases are omicron, the fatality rate has gone down.
Omicron was discovered in South Africa on Nov. 9. It was reported to the World Health Organization on Nov. 24. The most recent sequencing data suggests ~75% of cases there are Omicron.
Here is the case fatality rate in South Africa since reporting the new variant to WHO on 11/24 pic.twitter.com/Mkxebm8tAW
— Kyle Lamb (@kylamb8) December 8, 2021
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