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Fauci says 'fully vaccinated' definition not yet changing to include boosters

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Every vaccinated person should "get boosted" depending on how long it's been since their initial shots, but those with their original vaccination protection are still considered "fully vaccinated" despite indications that immunity can wane, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.

The White House chief medical adviser appeared on ABC’s This Week on Sunday to discuss the recent announcement made by the CDC on Friday to officially recommend booster shots for all adults ages 18 years and older. This move comes after many states were already allowing all adults to get a booster against COVID-19.

"Now that you look at the data as it's evolved in the United States, it's very clear," Fauci told This Week co-anchor Martha Raddatz. "They wanted to make sure that the safety signals were right, and once that became very clear, right now I’m very pleased that we're in a situation where there's no confusion, there's no lack of clarity."

Following recent statements from governors of Connecticut and New Mexico -- who have said they do not consider an individual fully vaccinated unless they have received a booster due to the drop one can see in immunity -- Raddatz pressed Fauci on why the White House has not adopted that standard.

By definition, Fauci said, fully vaccinated right now means someone has received two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

"We'll continue to follow the data, because right now when we're boosting people, what we're doing is following them," Fauci said. "We're going to see what the durability of that protection is, and as we always do, you just follow and let the data guide your policy and let the data guide your recommendations."

As of Friday, 59% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said last week there’s a high chance that boosters will be needed annually, but when asked by Raddatz what he thought, Fauci did not necessarily agree.

"We would hope -- and this is something that we're looking at very carefully -- that third shot with the mRNA not only boosts you way up but increases the durability so that you will not necessarily need it every six months or a year," Fauci said. "If it doesn't, and the data show we do need it more often, then we'll do it, but you want to make sure you get the population optimally protected and you do whatever you need to do to make sure you do that."

The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that COVID-19 deaths in 2021 surpassed the number of COVID-19 deaths in 2020, with the total number of deaths now reaching more than 770,000. Raddatz pressed Fauci to explain how deaths increased, and he cited the delta variant -- "which is very, very different from the original variants that we were dealing with before."

"This is a virus that is highly transmissible," he said. "The more people that get infected, the more people are going to get hospitalized. The more people they get hospitalized, the more people are going to die."

Fauci noted that another difference between this year and last year is the availability of vaccines, and he stressed the importance of getting vaccinated.

"We now have vaccines that are highly effective and clearly very safe, particularly now with the recent data showing that we can vaccinate children from 5 through 11," Fauci said. "There are 28 million children within that age category. If we started vaccinating them now, they'll be fully protected by Christmas."

With the holidays coming up, Raddatz also asked Fauci to explain what safety precautions families can take this holiday season.

"If you're vaccinated -- and hopefully, you'll be boosted, too -- and your family is, you can enjoy a typical Thanksgiving meal or Thanksgiving holiday with your family," Fauci said. "The thing we are concerned about is the people who are not vaccinated, because what they're doing is, they're the major source of the dynamics of the infection in the community. And the higher the level of dynamics of infection, the more everyone is at risk."

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