Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday it’s “conceivable” that a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be recommended to protect against the Omicron variant — though more research is needed about how well the current boosters prevent severe disease.
“Before we start talking about a fourth shot, it would be very important for us to determine the durability of protection, particularly against severe disease for the third-shot booster of an mRNA [vaccine] and the second shot of a [Johnson & Johnson],” Fauci said at a White House COVID-19 task force press briefing.
But Fauci said it’s possible that more protection will be necessary against the variant.
“It is conceivable that in the future, we might need an additional shot, but right now, we are hoping that we will get a greater degree of durability of protection from that booster shot,” Fauci said. “So we’re going to take one step at a time, get the data from the third boost and then make decisions based on scientific data.”
Fauci warned that Omicron has been better at evading the immunity provided by vaccines, causing breakthrough infections.
But he said that “boosters bring back up that degree of protection to a level that is approximately what it was before.”
“So boosters are critical in getting our approach to Omicron to be optimal,” he said.
Currently, the seven-day average for new cases nationwide is 240,400 per day, up around 60% from the previous week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
With rising cases, Fauci has cautioned against attending large New Year’s Eve bashes.
“If your plans are to go to a 40- to 50-person New Year’s Eve party with all the bells and whistles and everybody hugging and kissing and wishing each other a happy new year, I would strongly recommend that this year we do not do that,” Fauci said.
Instead, he suggested that people have small, at-home gatherings with vaccinated people.
“Although the risk is never zero in anything, the risk is low enough that we feel you should continue to go through with those plans of having a home-related, vaccinated, boosted gathering with family and close friends who are also vaccinated and boosted,” he said.