In his last appearance at the White House podium, Anthony Fauci urged Americans to get the latest Covid shot as a new study showed that the latest boosters offer better protection against new variants than previous shots.
Fauci appeared ahead of his retirement next month as America’s top public health official. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, Fauci became a household name as the public face of the US government’s response to the pandemic.
“So my message and my final message, maybe the final message I give you from this podium, is that please for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated Covid-19 shot as soon as you’re eligible to protect yourself, your family and your community,” Fauci said.
The latest real-world study of updated Covid boosters, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, offered the first evidence that the new vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna provide better protection compared to the original shots.
The study of more than 360,000 people indicated that the boosters offer increased protection against new variants in people who have previously received up to four doses of the older vaccine.
Since their introduction in September, the vaccine boosters, which contain both original and Omicron BA.4/5 coronavirus strain, provided greater benefit to younger adults aged 18-49 years than those in the older age group.
When given eight months or more apart, relative vaccine effectiveness of the new boosters compared with the original vaccine shots was 56% among people aged 18-49 years, 48% among those 50-64 years and 43% among people aged 65 and older, the study showed.
The variation in effectiveness was lower, in the range of 28-31%, when the boosters were given two to three months apart.
The authors of the study, however, warned that participants may not have recalled their vaccination status, previous infection history and underlying medical conditions, and that low acceptance of bivalent boosters could have biased the results.
So far, around 35m updated boosters have been administered across the US, representing around 10% of the total population, as per government data.
The authors warned that the study may not be generalizable to future variants, as the dominant variants keep changing.
In just the last two months, the BQ.1 and BQ1.1 subvariants have become the dominant strains of coronavirus in the United States, taking over from the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron, based on which the vaccines were updated.
Fauci appeared alongside the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha to address the Covid situation ahead of the holiday season.
With some news outlets breathlessly warning of a potential “tridemic” – a possible simultaneous surge of Covid, influenza and RSV – the Biden administration has announced a new six-week campaign to encourage Americans to get boosters in anticipation of the holidays.
At the traditional annual pardoning of a Thanksgiving turkey on Monday – which the president delivered complete with “God love yas” and grandad jokes, as is also traditional – Biden concluded on a serious note, encouraging Americans to get both coronavirus and flu vaccines.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said of Fauci: “For so many Americans throughout our fight with Covid, Dr Fauci has been a source of information and facts. But Dr Fauci’s leadership and legacy stretch far beyond the past couple of years… whether it be HIV/Aids, Ebola or Covid-19, for close to four decades and under seven Republican and Democratic presidents, Dr Fauci has always led with the science. And our country is stronger and healthier because of his leadership.”