Fauci pushes back on coronavirus vaccine booster criticism

Fauci pushes back on coronavirus vaccine booster criticism
© New York Times/Pool

White House chief medical adviser Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Journalist Zaid Jilani describes removal of animal rights ad that criticizes Fauci Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing MORE on Tuesday said he disagreed with a medical journal paper, co-authored by two outgoing federal vaccine regulators, that argued the science doesn't support giving COVID-19 booster shots to every American.

During an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Fauci called the article "controversial" and said it conflates things that are not supposed to be connected. 

Specifically, Fauci said the U.S. can embark on a program of giving booster shots without sacrificing doses needed by the rest of the world.

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"You can do both. The way we're doing in this country, you can have a program to give booster, in this case third shots for people who've gotten the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccine, you can get them boosted if you put a considerable amount of resources and effort into getting low and middle income people vaccinated. And that's exactly what we're doing," Fauci said. 

The Biden administration is pushing for boosters to be widely available to all Americans beginning Sept. 20, pending approval or authorization from federal health agencies, and is trying to rally behind a consistent message across all agencies.

"If you look at the data, the data are strongly suggestive in this country, and more than just suggestive in Israel, that you have a waning of immunity among people across age groups, not just the very very elderly, you have clearly waning of immunity against infection and clear cut indication of waning of immunity against severe disease," Fauci added.

Fauci was addressing an article published in The Lancet on Monday, co-authored by scientists including Marion Gruber and Phil Krause, two longtime Food and Drug Administration officials who have been leading the agency's review of COVID-19 vaccine applications.

Both Gruber and Krause recently said they are departing the agency later this fall. Monday's article included a disclaimer that Gruber and Krause were writing as private citizens, not as government employees.

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Still, their involvement brought heightened awareness to disagreement over the administration's booster approach coming from outside scientists who argue it's premature.

The paper argued that none of the current evidence on the COVID-19 vaccines shows a need for booster doses in the general population. 

The authors pointed to flaws with Israel's data, notably that the study followed up on patients after only a week, and  that "a very short-term protective effect would not necessarily imply worthwhile long-term benefit."