Fauci: Omicron-specific vaccines ‘prudent’ but may be unnecessary

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President Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Tuesday he believes it is “prudent” for Pfizer and BioNTech to develop omicron variant-specific COVID-19 boosters, even though “we may not need it at all.”

“What the company is trying to do is — if in fact it becomes the low-level, dominant variant that you would want to protect people from breakthrough infections and you might want to boost them — it makes sense to at least have ready an omicron-specific boost,” Fauci told MSNBC host José Diaz-Balart, adding, “We may not need it.”

“I think it’s prudent to at least prepare for the possibility that this may be a persistent variant that we might have to face. … For that reason, they’re going ahead and doing the experiments you just described,” the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head continued, referencing Pfizer-BioNTech’s Tuesday announcement that they had begun their human trials of the reformulated vaccine.

Pfizer is studying its modified vaccine on 1,420 people divided into different groups to monitor the efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine adapted to target omicron. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said earlier in the month an omicron-specific vaccine will likely be ready in March. 

Fauci’s comments echo his previous remarks from December, shortly after the omicron variant was detected. He said then that there was no need at the time for an omicron-specific vaccine, saying the booster doses of the current vaccines were providing sufficient protection, particularly against death and hospitalization.

“The message remains clear: If you are unvaccinated, get vaccinated, and particularly in the arena of omicron, if you are fully vaccinated, get your booster shot,” he said last month. 

Tags Anthony Fauci Anthony Fauci BioNTech Booster dose Clinical trials Joe Biden National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases Pfizer Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant

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