The top infectious disease doctor announced this during an interview with CNBC, in response to a question about COVID-19 vaccination in the future.
"It is likely that we're not done with this when it comes to vaccines," Fauci said. "Everybody wants to return to normal, everybody wants to put the virus behind us in the rear-view mirror – which is, I think, what we should aspire to." He acknowledged that the U.S. "is going in the right direction" in its response to four other COVID-19 variants.
Back in January 2022, Fauci argued that a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose was "entirely conceivable" given the spread of the more infectious B11529 omicron variant. The strain first identified in South Africa can evade vaccine-induced immunity, he warned.
"We may need to boost again; that's entirely conceivable. But before we make that decision about yet again another boost, we want to determine clearly what the durability of protection is of that regular boost, that third shot," he told ABC news anchor Martha Raddatz. "Certainly, you're going to see the antibody levels go down. That's natural." (Related: Fauci claims fourth COVID dose is "entirely conceivable.")
According to the NIAID director, health officials "don't know the durability of protection" imbued by a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines and a second dose of the Janssen adenoviral vector vaccine.
However, he clarified the use of the term protection as "protection against severe disease" – indirectly admitting that vaccines do not protect against COVID-19 transmission. "You are going to see breakthrough infection as we've seen now – even in boosted people," added Fauci.
Fauci bringing up the possibility of a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose soon appeared to align with comments made by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. The head of the New York-based drug company said on March 13 that a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose is "necessary" for continued protection against omicron.
"It is necessary – a fourth [dose] – right now. The protection that you are getting from the third [shot] is not that good against infections [and] doesn't last very long. We are just submitting those data to the [Food and Drug Administration], and then we will see what the experts outside Pfizer will also say," he said during a CBS interview on "Face The Nation."
Bourla cited data from Pfizer studies indicating that three COVID-19 vaccine doses provide high protection against hospitalization and death stemming from the omicron variant. But he quickly added: "It doesn't last long. After three or four months, it starts waning."
Back in December of last year, Bourla stated the need for a fourth dose amid the spread of omicron. Prior to this, he predicted that the fourth COVID-19 dose would be given 12 months after the third dose.
The Pfizer CEO said during a Dec. 8 "Squawk Box" interview on CNBC: "[The first point is] when we see real-world data, [it] will determine if the omicron [variant] is well-covered by the third dose and for how long. [The] second point [is] I think we will need a fourth dose. With omicron, we need to wait and see because we have very little information. We may need it faster."
According to Bourla, Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech can develop an omicron-specific vaccine by March 2022 if the situation calls for it. However, he said that the company expects new variants to emerge and that will determine if vaccine adjustments are needed.
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Watch Dr. Anthony Fauci explain to ABC's Martha Raddatz how a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose is entirely conceivable.
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