With the U.S. Food and Drug administration poised to allow third doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for immune-compromised people, many are wondering if a similar recommendation is on the way for the rest of the population. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, it's "inevitable," but more research is needed to determine exactly when.
Joining TODAY Thursday, the nation's leading infectious disease physician discussed the recent reports that the FDA has plans to amend the emergency use authorizations for the currently two-shot vaccines and what this means for people without compromised immune systems.
"The important thing to point out is ... the immune compromised ... never really got a good response to begin with. So for them, it's more of getting them up to what they hopefully had gotten the first time around, but we know because if they're immune-compromised, they don't," he explained to TODAY co-host Craig Melvin.
"That's different than the durability of response, which means taking a person, be it an elderly, healthy person or a young, healthy person, and just continue to very carefully follow them. And if the level of their protection goes below a certain level, to then be ready and have a plan ready to get them their boost."
Will the general population also need a third vaccine dose?
"No vaccine, at least not within this category, is going to have an indefinite amount of protection," he stressed. "Inevitably there will be a time when we will have to give boosts. What we're doing literally on a weekly and monthly basis is following cohorts of patients to determine if, when and who should get it."
"What we need to do is to get a lot of data, which is literally in real time, even as we speak now we're doing that. There's data from Pfizer, data from Moderna," he continued. "What the CDC is looking at, they have cohorts of patients — elderly, nursing home, younger individuals, et cetera — looking at all that data, and if the data show, in fact, that the degree of protection has gone down below a critical level, that's when you're going to be hearing about the implementation of boosters."
"But right now at this moment, they are examining the data. They do not feel that we absolutely have to give it except for the immune-compromised, who imminently they're going to get the approval."
Last month, Pfizer announced it's seeking FDA authorization for a third dose of its vaccine for the general population, saying it could dramatically boost immunity, especially as the highly contagious delta variant ravages the country. But much of the world is still waiting to have access to those initial two doses.
On Wednesday, NBC News reported that immune-compromised people in the U.S. may soon have access to a third dose of the vaccines after a panel of advisors to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged action on extra doses for immunocompromised adults last month. Once the FDA officially amends the emergency use authorizations, likely to happen Thursday, the CDC advisory group will need to sign off before doctors can start prescribing extra doses. The panel is scheduled to meet Friday.
What is the latest on COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy?
On TODAY Thursday, Fauci also explained the reasoning behind the CDC's recommendation issued Wednesday that pregnant women should get vaccinated against COVID-19. He cited the "extraordinary amount of data" that makes it "very, very clear" that the vaccines are safe in pregnant women, along with the fact that "we absolutely know" pregnant, unvaccinated women have an increased risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications if infected with the coronavirus.
"There's no question that recommendation had to switch from could to should," he added.
Fauci then weighed in on the highly contested issue of COVID-19 safety protocols in schools, from vaccine mandates to masking and testing, as many students prepare to head back to class in person.
"In my mind and in the mind of public health officials, the first thing you do is that you surround (kids) with people who are vaccinated, and that's the reason why we want the teachers to get vaccinated, we want the personnel in the school to get vaccinated, and we want children who are eligible because of their age to get vaccinated," he said.