White House COVID-19 adviser Anthony Fauci said he is confused as to why booster rates are lagging and said he doesn’t “have an easy explanation” for the phenomenon.
When asked by a reporter on Wednesday about why fully vaccinated individuals aren’t getting as many boosters, Fauci noted that “about half” of all eligible Americans have received booster doses so far. Fauci made the remarks alongside COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients at a White House briefing.
“Why would people who had enough understanding of the risk to go ahead and get the primary series—why we don’t have more getting the booster,” Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, said in response. “I don’t have an easy explanation for that.”
Fauci said that he believes that federal health data suggests that it is “stunningly obvious” that vaccinated people should get a booster dose.
“So, the only thing that we can do is to continue to come out with the data and to make sure the American public appreciates why it is so important for optimal protection to get boosted,” he said.
Fauci’s comments come as several recent studies have shown that natural immunity, or the immunity achieved by prior COVID-19 infection, provides effective and lasting protection. One preprint study published in Italy in late January suggested that natural immunity lasts about 18 months.
“At 18 months, 97 percent participants tested positive for anti-NCP, hinting towards the persistence of infection-induced immunity even for the vaccinated individuals,” researchers wrote in a study posted to the Medrxiv website, referring to nucleocapsid, a type of protein within Covid-19.
Meanwhile, other studies have suggested that the Omicron variant may spread more quickly among fully vaccinated populations. In early January, Danish researchers, in a survey of some 12,000 households, found that unvaccinated people are as susceptible as those who are vaccinated.
At the same time, some U.S. cities have indicated they may start to end certain COVID-19 restrictions such as vaccine passports or indoor mask mandates. Some countries are planning—or have already done—the same.
“No one can know what will happen next December. But we promised the citizens of Denmark that we will only have restrictions if they are truly necessary and we’ll lift them as soon as we can,” Denmark Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told CNN Monday. “That’s what’s happening right now.”
Several weeks ago, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that COVID-19-related restrictions like masking and vaccine mandates would end in England.
And this week, officials in Israel, one of the first countries to implement a COVID-19 pass, said the country’s “green pass” would expire this week.
“To continue the green pass in the same way can create false assurances,” Nadav Davidovitch, who serves as an expert in the prime minister’s government, told reporters, according to the AFP news agency.
Passports and other mandates are “not reducing infections in closed spaces like theatres. It needs to be used mainly for high-risk places like hospitals, elderly care homes, or events when you are eating and singing and dancing,” he added.