Did Fauci Say More COVID-19 Boosters Could Be Recommended?

"The potential future requirement for an additional boost ... is being very carefully monitored in real time," he said.

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Claim

On Feb. 16, 2022, Dr. Anthony Fauci said public health officials were considering whether, in the future, they should recommend fully vaccinated and boosted Americans to get yet another booster shot.

Origin

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In mid-February 2022, social media users called attention to alleged remarks by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. top infectious disease expert, regarding the possibility of additional COVID-19 vaccinations to help combat future infections. For instance, one Twitter user claimed he said:

“The potential future requirement for an additional boost, or a fourth shot for mRNA or a third shot for [Johnson & Johnson] is being very carefully monitored in real time.”

The claim was true. While speaking on behalf of the White House’s COVID-19 Response Team at a virtual news conference on Feb. 16, Fauci said the following, according to a video recording and the White House’s official transcript of the event:

The potential future requirement for an additional boost, or a fourth shot for mRNA or a third shot for J&J, is being very carefully monitored in real time. And recommendations, if needed, will be updated according to the data as it evolves. 

In other words, Fauci said public health officials were monitoring COVID-19 data to determine whether, in the future, they should issue a new recommendation for fully vaccinated and boosted Americans to get yet another booster shot. For that reason, we rate this claim “True.”

At the time of the statement, public health institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were recommending all vaccinated adults to get booster shots to improve their odds of fighting off the highly contagious omicron strain of the coronavirus.

In other words, mostly healthy people who had gotten two-dose shots manufactured by Pfizer or Moderna (those are mRNA vaccines) for their initial vaccine series more than five months ago were encouraged to get a  booster shot by one of those manufacturers. Likewise, most people who had received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot (which uses different vaccine technology) at least two months prior were supposed to get a second shot, a booster.

[See also: No, mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Do Not ‘Alter Your DNA’]

Meanwhile, the CDC recommended adults and teenagers who suffer from moderate or severe illnesses that compromise their immune systems to get an additional shot — a second booster vaccine  — to protect themselves against omicron. 

According to Fauci, public health officials were considering expanding that recommendation to include everyone, regardless of their immune systems’ health. Other than noting that the potential change hinges on trends within unspecified COVID-19 data, he did not elaborate further.

Weeks earlier, Snopes asked Dr. Andrew Karaba, of Johns Hopkins Medicine, about the possibility of additional COVID-19 vaccinations in the pandemic’s third year. In short, he said it was too soon to say how often — or who — would need more shots. “It’s likely we will get to a place where some regular booster schedule is devised,” Karaba said.

[See also: Pandemic Year 3: Infectious Disease Experts Weigh In]

During the Feb. 16 news conference, Fauci touted “vaccination and boosting” as critical in maintaining a downward trend in cases and, thus, avoiding bottlenecks in hospitals due to the amount of severe COVID-19 patients needing treatment. 

As of mid-February, the number of coronavirus cases nationally had dropped 75% from the highs of mid-January during the omicron surge, and state governments were responding by loosening mandatory mask policies, as NPR reported.

About 75% of eligible Americans had gotten their two-dose mRNA shots, or one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, and about two-thirds of that population had gotten booster shots, according to Jeffrey Zients, the coordinator of the White House response team.

See also from Snopes:

Sources:

‘Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials’. The White House, 16 Feb. 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2022/02/16/press-briefing-by-white-house-covid-19-response-team-and-public-health-officials-83/.

02/16/22: Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f41s633Duk0. Accessed 17 Feb. 2022.

Aubrey, Allison. ‘As COVID-19 Cases Drop across the Country, Mandates Are Loosened’. NPR, 14 Feb. 2022. NPR, https://www.npr.org/2022/02/14/1080548597/as-covid-19-cases-drop-across-the-country-mandates-are-loosened.