President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday he believes the definition of being fully vaccinated will inevitably change.
Fauci spoke with CNN on Wednesday after news that Pfizer’s booster vaccine, combined with its two original shots, appears to protect against the Omicron variant. The variant, which was first identified by South Africa in November, sparked concern within the U.S. and other countries due to what’s believed to be a higher transmissibility rate, although other information was not yet known about it.
Fauci noted the Pfizer news is “encouraging” and touted the booster shot, which the administration has pushed heavily in response to the new variant. He said while the definition of fully vaccinated – which currently is two shots for those who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine – is an “almost semantic definition,” he personally believes it will change in time.
“My own personal opinion, Kate, is what you said is correct,” Fauci told CNN’s Kate Bolduan. “It’s going to be a matter of when, not if.”
Fauci noted that he doesn’t see the definition “changing tomorrow or next week” but reiterated his stance on boosters providing “optimal protection.”
“Certainly, when you want to talk about optimal protection, I don’t think anyone would argue that optimal protection is gonna be with a third shot. Whether or not it officially gets changed in the definition, I think that’s gonna be considered literally on a daily basis. That’s always on the table,” he explained.
The administration has sought to learn more about the new variant and announced travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries shortly after it was identified. Despite these restrictions, the Omicron variant was identified in the U.S. on December 1. (RELATED: Biden Says Omicron Variant Is ‘Cause For Concern, Not Cause For Panic,’ Defends Implementation Of Travel Restrictions)
Fauci noted on Tuesday during an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP) that Omicron is “almost certainly … not more severe” than the still-dominant Delta variant. His comments echo those made by Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association and one of the early doctors to tell authorities about a new potential variant. Coetzee was critical of the world’s response to the new variant, noting that current patients typically have “very, very mild symptoms,” though it is still early on.
Biden’s chief medical advisor also expanded on his view of what fully vaccinated may mean in the future, telling CNN that part of the problem is timing. He cited ongoing lawsuits surrounding Biden’s vaccine mandates and rules, noting that “it has implications for that.”
Ultimately, Fauci said the definition of fully vaccinated shouldn’t matter and told Americans to “get your third shot.”
“Forget about what the definition is. I just want to see people be optimally protected. That’s what I’m concerned about. For me that’s unequivocally and unquestionably getting a third shot boost,” Fauci declared.