Dec 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Fauci: It's not too late to get boosted for the holidays

Dr. Anthony Fauci wearing a mask at a White House briefing with Christmas lights behind him
Anthony Fauci during a Dec. 9 meeting with President Biden and the White House Covid-19 Response Team on the Omicron variant. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci tells Axios that public health officials are urging people to get COVID-19 vaccine boosters in light of waning antibody immunity and rising infections from Delta.

Driving the news: The Omicron variant is also now spreading in the United States. It's been shown to be highly transmissible and more able to evade vaccines, but a third shot or booster of an mRNA vaccine re-ups protection against Delta and Omicron, Fauci says.

  • "It's the same public health measure for Delta, for Beta, for Alpha: Get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask," Fauci says.
  • Fauci expects Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa, "will rapidly spread" in the U.S. but adds, "you have to wait and see, as there may be factors in the United States that are different enough than factors in South Africa."
  • Antibodies naturally wane over time, and boosters are meant to help reconstitute the antibody level again, which is why they are so important, Fauci says.

Between the lines: Concerns are growing over the timing of holiday gatherings and the arrival of Omicron — plus the current booster gap in people eligible for a booster.

  • "Keep gatherings small, test ahead of time if you can, and make sure you get your booster," FredHutch immunobiologist Jennifer Lund tells Axios.
  • "We're kind of getting out of the range of two weeks before the holidays, but boosters will work quicker than the initial dose does because you're just kind of reminding your immune system of what it needs to do," Lund says.

The bottom line: "If you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you're not supposed to be boosted, be prudent and wear a mask," Fauci says.

  • "If you're vaccinated and your family's vaccinated, you can enjoy nice Christmas dinners and holidays — but be careful when you're around people who you don't know what their vaccination status is."

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