White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday refused to rule out recommending annual COVID-19 booster shots as part of the Biden administration's plan to fight the pandemic, especially as the virus continues to mutate and evolve.
“The honest answer is we don’t know what’s going to be required,” the public health official explained during CNN's coronavirus townhall when asked by anchor Anderson Cooper whether yearly vaccination is on the table.
"You could say we might have this or we might require this, but we don't know," he continued, noting that he and his colleagues are interested in seeing whether booster shots elevate not only the immune system's generation of antibodies but also its affinity maturation, or durability of immunity.
"It may be we get a durability of immunity, or maybe not, and if it is not, we'll have to deal with it depending upon how the outbreak and the global pandemic evolves," he added. “I hope we get a durability protection from the boost that we won’t have to be chasing all the time against the new variant, but that just remains to be seen.”
Fauci, who runs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the comments only hours after the first U.S. case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant was confirmed in California in a fully vaccinated American returning from travel to South Africa. A second case has since been confirmed in a Minnesota man who had recently traveled to New York City.
During the town hall, Fauci claimed that the new variant's emergence in the U.S. shouldn't cause Americans to change their holiday travel plans. But he did use the news as a platform to encourage adult Americans to receive booster shots and children aged 5 to 11 to receive their first dose of the vaccine.
"If you can, just get vaccinated as soon as you can, and right now is the time to get boosted," Fauci said.
The public health official has been a vocal supporter of the widespread administration of booster shots. Last month in an interview with Axios, he remarked that it's "extremely important for people to get boosters" and indicated that boosters would ultimately become "a part of the standard regimen" in fighting off the pandemic.