“What we’re starting to see now is an uptick in hospitalizations among people who’ve been vaccinated but not boosted,” Fauci said Tuesday. “It’s a significant proportion, but not the majority by any means.”
In a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Wednesday, Fauci stressed the importance of vaccines and highlighted their efficacy.
“We have 62 million Americans eligible for vaccines who are still not vaccinated. The data that I show you do not lie. Vaccines protect you, your family, and your community,” he said, speaking alongside U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “And importantly, it is not too late, as Dr. Walensky has said. Get vaccinated now.”
At the same panel, Walensky gave similar remarks, explaining that the agency is “seeing an increase in emergency department visits among adults age 65 and older, which are now again higher than they are for younger age groups.”
Residents of long-term care facilities and adults over age 65 were among the first eligible for vaccination.
However, Walensky noted that new data from the National Healthcare Safety Network looking at COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities shows that booster shots are working.
“[The U.S. Food and Drug Administration] is currently evaluating data on the authorization of booster doses for all people over age 18. As we’ve done before, CDC will quickly review the safety and effectiveness data and make recommendations as soon as we hear from FDA,” she said.
All of this comes amidst fears about winter outbreaks fueled by coronavirus variants and holiday travel.
More than 53 million Americans are expected to travel for Thanksgiving next week, according to predictions from AAA.
The FDA is expected to authorize booster doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for all adults before an influential U.S. advisory panel meets on Friday. The action would reportedly expand the number of eligible Americans by tens of millions.
Scientists had initially questioned whether booster shots were necessary for all Americans, and while some cities and states already allow all adults to get boosters of the Pfizer vaccine, it is not yet official U.S. policy.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged Wednesday for residents to schedule their boosters. Michigan had the country’s second-highest case rate over the last week, and the seven-day average – 7,187 – was approaching peaks from April and last December.
Governors in California, New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia and Colorado have expanded shots to all adults without waiting for the federal government.
Boosters are currently recommended for people who initially received their second Pfizer or Moderna shots at least six months ago if they’re 65 or older or are at high risk of COVID-19 because of health problems or their job or living conditions. Boosters are also recommended for people who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.
More than 31 million Americans have already received a dose beyond their original vaccination, CDC data shows.
During an interview on NBC News’ “Hallie Jackson Now,” Fauci stressed the importance of booster availability and said the future of the pandemic during the holiday season is “going to be up to us.”
“We’ve got to start right now getting anybody who’s eligible … to get them boosted,” he said. “And, we’ve got realize that when you’re in a situation where you’re having 80-plus-thousand new cases a day, when you’re in an indoor setting in which you don’t know the vaccine status of the people in a congregate setting [indoors], you should wear a mask.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.