The light at the end of the tunnel has appeared once again. COVID cases in the U.S. have dropped more than 7 percent in the last week, while hospitalizations and deaths have dropped more than 10 percent and 9 percent, respectively, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, recently told McClatchy that the state of the pandemic in this country is still a "mixed bag" as we enter the holiday season. In order to keep these numbers going down, the infectious disease expert has offered some advice to vaccinated individuals.
According to Fauci, there is not yet enough data to determine whether booster shots are contributing to this decline in cases, but it's likely, based on the early data coming out of Israel. "I would expect that if we keep getting people vaccinated, more and more, the likelihood of there being a reversal of a downward trend becomes less and less," he told McClatchy.
Fauci said that new data on vaccine boosters from Israel has provided even more clarity on whether or not people need an additional shot now. A new study from the scientists at Israel's Clalit Research Institute has determined that starting a week after the third dose of a COVID vaccine, patients have a 92 percent lower risk of severe COVID, a 93 percent lower risk of COVID-related hospitalization, and an 81 percent lower risk of COVID-related death. According to Fauci, the study, which was published Oct. 29 in The Lancet, indicates that you should not wait for your booster if you're vaccinated and eligible.
"The data are really quite striking, of the difference and the protection that you get among individuals who have been boosted versus just vaccinated," he said. "People will make their individual choice, but I think if you look at the data, it would be suggested that when you are eligible, that you should get vaccinated with your boost."
Other experts have similarly cautioned vaccinated individuals against waiting to get a booster. Jeremy Levin, MD, former chairman of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization and founder of Ovid Therapeutics, previously told Best Life that waiting for a booster "increases the probability that the immunity gained by the original vaccination will diminish."
And those more at risk of severe COVID, like older adults and people with underlying medical conditions, should definitely consider getting their booster before the colder weather rolls in, Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, the director of the division of infectious disease at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, recently told The Washington Post. "Winter is coming. We really want everybody to think about it like topping off your antibody levels, like topping off the tank before winter comes," she said.
Fauci also said that members of the White House COVID response team are currently examining whether a third shot of an mRNA vaccine or a second shot of Johnson&Johnson's vaccine should be considered as the new, complete regimen for full vaccination or just a booster.
"It is conceivable—though we don't know that until we prove it–that that third shot of an mRNA and second shot of a J&J might give much more durable protection than what the first two shots gave, and you would not see the waning that we've seen just with the primary vaccination regimen. You're going to have to follow these people and let the data tell you what the answer is," he said.
Currently, there are more than 64 million U.S. adults who are unvaccinated, according to Fauci. These people should exercise caution during the holidays, but those who are fully vaccinated and getting their boosters can relax a bit more this year.
"Vaccinated people should look forward to spending holidays with the family and close friends," Fauci said. "You'd like to know the status of the people if you're going to have indoor gatherings with them, but if you're vaccinated, you should look forward to spending your typical holiday time with family and with close friends."