'Highest priority' is to vaccinate the unvaccinated, Fauci says

'Highest priority' is to vaccinate the unvaccinated, Fauci says
© Greg Nash

Chief White House medical adviser Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Manchin heatedly dismisses rumors of leaving Democratic Party Webb: Pretzel logic  More than 40 Texas hospitals face ICU bed shortages MORE said on Sunday that the "highest priority" for the U.S. in combating the COVID-19 pandemic is still getting unvaccinated people vaccinated.

NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddArkansas governor backs employer vaccine mandates Paid family leave is 'not a vacation,' Buttigieg says Grisham thinks Trump will run in 2024 and have no 'guardrails' MORE asked Fauci whether boosters are a luxury, as many world leaders have called for boosters to be blocked as many other poorer countries struggle to vaccinate their own populations.

"No, I don't think a booster is a luxury, and I'll explain why in a moment. But I do want to correct one thing, Chuck. Our highest priority still is getting the unvaccinated vaccinated," Fauci said.

"And there should be no confusion about that. The highest priority is not getting boosters," he added. "We think it's important to get boosters to people, but the overwhelming highest priority is to vaccinate the unvaccinated."

Fauci went on to argue that administering booster shots is not a luxury.

"The reason we started with two doses — as you well know, Chuck, we discussed it right here on the show — we were in an emergency situation. We needed to get vaccines out to people to be lifesaving. And in fact, they have likely saved millions of lives already," Fauci added. "That doesn't mean that's the end of what this regimen should be. And on a week by week, month by month basis, as we gather more data, we may get a better concept of what the proper regimen will be."

An advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week voted in favor of recommending booster shots for those over the age of 65 and other high-risk individuals, but voted against recommending them for all people over the age of 16. This decision has resulted in some confusion as the Biden administration had set it planned on rolling out booster shots beginning on Sept. 20.

Todd also asked if the Biden administration had gotten "ahead of the science," a characterization Fauci dismissed.  

"The president and the medical group at the White House said, 'We are planning to be able to roll out boosters essentially for everyone, you know, 16 years of age and older.' That was a plan that was always contingent, and every one of us said that, contingent upon the FDA's normal regulatory process together with their advisors to make a decision as to exactly what that rollout would look like. And that's exactly what happened," he said.