Fauci: 4th COVID-19 vaccine dose too ‘premature’ to discuss

The country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said it’s too early to determine if Americans would need a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

"I think it's too premature to be talking about a fourth dose," Fauci told Michael Wallace and Steve Scott of WCBS Newsradio 880.

"One of the things that we're going to be following very carefully is what the durability of the protection is following the third dose of an mRNA vaccine," he continued. "If the protection is much more durable than the two-dose, non-boosted group, then we may go a significant period of time without requiring a fourth dose."

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COVID-19 cases are sharply on the rise in the U.S. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, the 7-day moving average of cases stands above 176, 000. That’s up from more than 67,000 in late October. 

Omicron has raced ahead of other variants and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new infections last week, federal health officials said last week. The CDC’s numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in omicron’s share of infections in only one week.

Some countries are already moving ahead with a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccines.

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According to The Washington Post, Israel is now recommending a fourth dose for "people over 60, those with compromised immune systems and employees in the health-care sector." Germany’s health minister Karl Lauterbach said he expects that "the booster vaccination and possibly also a fourth vaccination will be the central pillars of a successful strategy."

According to the CDC, more than 204 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, representing 61.7% of the country’s total population. The CDC said 64.5 million Americans have received a booster shot. 

The U.S. has been urging all eligible Americans to get booster shots as quickly as possible as the country faces a surge in the new, highly contagious omicron variant. Both Moderna and Pfizer have said that booster shots of their COVID-19 vaccines appear to offer protection against the new strain, which preliminary evidence suggests can better evade vaccines than previous versions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.