WASHINGTON – Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading expert in infectious diseases, reiterated the importance of COVID-19 vaccine enhancers following reports of an increase in hospitalizations among people who have been vaccinated.
In an interview with NBC News, Fauci expressed concern about the number of fully vaccinated individuals who have not received a booster shot and have been hospitalized.
“What we’re starting to see now is an increase in hospitalizations among people who have been vaccinated but not boosted,” Fauci said Tuesday. “It’s a significant proportion, but not the majority by any means.”
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The following day, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on a decline in vaccine efficacy among the elderly.
“Although the highest risk is the people who are unvaccinated, we are seeing an increase in emergency room visits among adults 65 and older, which is now again higher than they are for younger age groups,” Walensky said Wednesday at a White House COVID-19 press briefing.
Walensky pointed out that the number of COVID-19 infections between people vaccinated with the initial doses and those who received boosters is remarkable.
“The disease rate is significantly lower for those who got their booster shots, showing that our boosters are working,” she said.
“Studies show that those who are unvaccinated continue to be more likely to be infected, more likely to be in the hospital and more likely to have serious COVID-19 complications,” Walensky added.
Fauci spoke at the same White House briefing that COVID-19 is not yet at the level of being reduced to an endemic disease, despite increased efforts to vaccinate as many people as possible, and that includes getting people to get a booster shot to improve your chances of effectiveness.
Fauci said he does not believe that COVID-19 will eventually be eradicated, but he feels convinced that vaccination is the best tool to eliminate the disease from a particular region.
“We have eliminated diseases by vaccination, like polio in the United States, as it is found elsewhere. We have eliminated measles in the United States; it is found elsewhere. We have eliminated malaria years and years ago, but it is found elsewhere,” Fauci said. .
Fauci added that while it will not be at any point when COVID-19 completely disappears from the world, the goal is to reduce the spread to a level where it does not dominate normal life.
“So I do not think we are going to remove it completely. We want control. And I think the confusion is: At what level of control will you accept it in its endemic nature? And as far as we are concerned, we know not really what that number is, but we know it when we get there, “Fauci said.
Fauci added that vaccination rates have helped, but the U.S. daily incidence and death rate are still far too high for the country to be close to endemic status.
“It’s certainly far, far lower than 80,000 new infections a day, and it’s far, far lower than 1,000 deaths a day and tens of thousands of hospitalizations,” Fauci added.
Fauci’s call for continued vaccinations comes amid uncertainty ahead of a winter season that some medical experts worry could bring yet another wave of the new coronavirus that could disrupt months of progress.
There is currently a worsening outlook in the Midwest as booster shots are being made available to everyone in a growing number of locations. Some schools in Michigan keep students at home prior to Thanksgiving, while military personnel send medical teams to Minnesota to relieve hospital staff overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.
Massachusetts and Utah were the latest to say anyone 18 years or older can roll up their sleeves for booster shots, and an advisory committee to the CDC meets Friday to discuss expanding boosters.
Cold weather states have dominated the fresh wave of cases over the past seven days, including New Hampshire, North Dakota and Wisconsin, according to federal data. But the Southwest also had problems with more than 90% of hospitalized beds occupied in Arizona.
In Detroit, where only 35% of eligible residents were fully vaccinated, the school district said it would switch to online learning on Friday in December due to rising COVID-19 cases, a need to clean buildings and a time-out for “mental emergency aid. “One high school has been changed to all online learning until November 29.
The United States now has an average of nearly 87,000 new coronavirus cases a day, up from 72,000 two weeks ago, and hospital admissions are starting to rise again after steadily declining since the peak of this summer’s delta variant rise. The country still averages more than 1,100 deaths a day, and the number of Americans dying from COVID-19 now stands at 768,000.
About 59% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, or about 195 million Americans. The government and health officials are calling for more people to be vaccinated, especially the 60 million people who have not yet received a first dose.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.