Dr Fauci accuses Rand Paul of ‘absurd exaggeration’ over claims about booster shots

Anthony Fauci has clashed with the Republican senator on several occasions  (AP)
Anthony Fauci has clashed with the Republican senator on several occasions (AP)
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Dr Anthony Fauci pushed back against “absurd” claims from Senator Rand Paul in a Thursday hearing about Covid, as the Kentucky Republican tried to argue there wasn’t enough proof for government recommendations that children should get coronavirus booster shots.

Mr Paul said: “So there are no studies, and Americans should all know this, there are no studies on children showing a reduction in hospitalization or death with taking a booster. The only studies that were permitted, the only studies that presented were antibody studies. So they say if we give you a booster, you make antibodies.

“A lot of scientists would question whether or not that’s proof of efficacy of a vaccine. If I give you 10, or I give a patient 10 MRNA vaccines, and they make protein each time, or they make antibodies each time, is that proof we should give 10 boosters Dr Fauci?”

“No I think that is somewhat of an absurd exaggeration,” responded Mr Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the White House and one of the nation’s top infectious disease experts.

He told Mr Paul, a former ophthalmologist, that there’s “clear cut clinical effect” in giving people booster shots.

In May, the CDC recommended boosting children aged 5 to 11.

“Since the pandemic began, more than 4.8 million children ages 5 through 11 have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 15,000 have been hospitalized and, tragically, over 180 have died,” the agency wrote in a press release at the time. “As cases increase across the country, a booster dose will safely help restore and enhance protection against severe disease.”

CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky emphasized at the time that millions of vaccines already administered to children show they are safe, and that vaccine hesitancy has left young people vulnerable to Covid, especially during the Omicron era.

“Vaccination with a primary series among this age group has lagged behind other age groups leaving them vulnerable to serious illness,” she said at the time. “With over 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected. I encourage parents to keep their children up to date with CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.”

The CDC’s  Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice, a 12-person body composed of some of the country’s leading doctors, made the recommendation on a 11-to-1 vote, with little debate.

The one vote against, from Helen “Keipp” Talbot of Vanderbilt University, was in part because she was worried that some children hadn’t gotten their first dose of the vaccine yet.

During Thursday’s sparring match in Congress, Senator Paul argued the vaccine presents elevated risk of a condition called myocarditis in some children. When the CDC recommended boosting children, the ACIP panel considered evidence that suggested the conditions is in fact less common among younger children.

Senator Paul is a frequent antagonist of Dr Fauci, and has used these criticisms to raise funds in the past.

“You keep coming back to personal attacks on me that have absolutely no relevance,” Dr Fauci argued in a January hearing. “Go to Rand Paul’s website and you see fire Dr Fauci with a little box that says contribute here. You can do five dollars, ten dollars, twenty dollars, one hundred dollars. So you are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain.”

The Kentucky senator, meanwhile, has called for Mr Fauci to go to jail for what he says is lying to Congress.