More than two years into the COVID pandemic, it’s clear that people are very much over the virus. Most of us are gathering with loved ones and planning vacations, while health officials have stripped back mask mandates and dropped vaccine requirements. But the coronavirus still continues to wreak havoc across the U.S. In just the last week alone, cases in the country have increased by more than 30 percent and hospitalizations by over 17 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
During a May 18 interview with NHK, top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, said the pandemic has inflicted more trouble on the U.S. than even pessimistic health officials were anticipating. President Joe Biden just announced on May 12 that the country was approaching a tragic milestone of one million COVID deaths. We have since reached that point.
“A year and a half or so ago … I was warning the country and the administration that this was very, very serious and we could have up to 200,000 deaths,” Fauci said. “I was actually criticized for being too alarmist and exaggerating, and it turns out that not only was I not exaggerating … the toll was five times what I had said.”
According to the infectious disease expert, an unwillingness to get vaccinated has been a large contributing factor in the high number of deaths. The latest data from the CDC indicates that as of May 12, just 66.3 percent of the total U.S. population has been fully vaccinated. But the booster campaign is going even worse, as about half of the total booster-eligible population has not gotten an additional dose.
“Immunity does wane, and that is why it is so important to stay up to date with vaccines and particularly boosters,” Fauci previously said during a May 18 White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing. The CDC authorized a first booster for all adults back in Nov. 2021, and in March, the agency approved a second booster for certain vaccinated individuals, including those over the age of 50.
Now, Fauci is warning that another COVID booster will likely be needed sometime in the next several months—and it may not be the same booster that’s available now. “We are doing clinical studies to determine, for the coming summer, what is the best of the boosters to get because we are very likely going to see an increase in infections as we enter the fall,” he explained.
According to Reuters, the National Institute of Health (NIH), where Fauci serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is overseeing the clinical studies to figure out if the next COVID booster will need to be specific to a particular variant or designed to address more than one variant. “We want to make sure we get the right booster so we’re doing a number of studies now to do that,” Fauci said.
The infectious disease expert also previously noted that the data from these studies could help inform health officials on how often COVID boosters will actually be needed in order for people to maintain strong protection against the virus over time.
“I think some time in the middle of summer we’re going to know what the cadence is going to be about how often we’re going to have to vaccinate people,” he said during a May 11 House Appropriations subcommittee meeting.