The definition of “fully vaccinated” could be changed by federal health officials to include COVID-19 booster doses if their data supports it, said White House pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci on Sunday.
While speaking to ABC’s “This Week,” Fauci said that medical officials are still considering the necessity of the booster shot and he personally would not change the definition for what constitutes “fully vaccinated.”
“We’re going to take a look right now at what the durability is of the booster,” Fauci said. “We’re going to follow people who get boosted.”
He added: “People should not be put off by the fact that as time goes by and we learn more and more about the protection that we might modify the guidelines. That’s what we’ve been saying all along.”
Fauci added that his agency will “just follow and let the data guide [our] policy, and let the data guide [our] recommendations.”
As of now, the definition of fully vaccinated will remain as two shots of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
If boosters display the same waning protection as the initial vaccine regime, “and the data shows we need to do it more often, then we’ll do it,” Fauci said, “but we want to make sure we get the population optimally protected and you do whatever you need to do.”
His comments on Sunday contrast previous public statements he said about booster doses.
During an appearance at the 2021 STAT Summit, Fauci said that “a booster isn’t an add-on, and a booster is a part of what the original regimen should be … so that when we look back on this, we’re going to see that boosters are essential for an optimal vaccine regimen.”
On Nov. 19, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccine advisory panel recommended in a unanimous vote that all U.S. adults can get booster doses for both Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines. Previously, only certain individuals could receive the shot. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to sign off on the recommendation.
It came hours after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna booster doses for all adults.
Booster doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a shot that uses an adenovirus rather than mRNA technology, were approved under an emergency use authorization for all adults in mid-October. Around the same time, the CDC also approved people who got the J&J shot to mix-and-match booster doses.
The Democrat governors of New Mexico and Connecticut recently suggested that they will change the definition of a complete COVID-19 vaccination to include boosters. In some countries such as Israel, vaccine passports—which are mandated to enter gyms, restaurants, and other venues—would expire six months after the second dose.
“We are analyzing what we can do to create those incentives—and potentially mandates—for making sure that people are fully vaccinated, which means three vaccines,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
As of Friday, more than 59 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.