National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci has reiterated that the U.S. will adhere to two-shot coronavirus vaccine regimens for products developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, according to a report.
Some argue that distributing first doses wider across the population now can cut severe disease and poor outcomes after infection, instead of holding back doses for second vaccinations in several weeks.
“There’s risks on either side,” Fauci told The Washington Post. A change to one-shot regimens for Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines could result in further spread of mutated strains, fuel vaccine skepticism and hesitancy and risk weaker protection and vulnerability to variants, he told the paper.
While officials in the U.K. have adopted the strategy in a bid to save lives, Fauci says the approach is not reasonable for the U.S. He added that consistent messaging on vaccines is crucial, especially given the public’s skepticism over government involvement with the national vaccination effort.
“We’re telling people [two shots] is what you should do … and then we say, ‘Oops, we changed our mind’?” Fauci told the paper. “I think that would be a messaging challenge, to say the least.”
Fauci has previously dismissed the idea of spacing out jabs, saying it is “the right solution to the wrong question.” He told the paper that supply-demand issues would “very quickly” “be diminished and then overcome” in the U.S., and that there are unknowns around immunity from a single-dose amid circulating variants.
“The issue of giving it to people and not having a guarantee you’re going to get a second shot goes against the science,” Fauci previously told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. “The idea about stretching it out so you can give more people, that’s if you have not enough vaccine and you have people lined up to get the vaccine.”
In a joint statement issued in February, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and Dr. Peter Marks, head of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, advised the public to adhere to the authorized dosing and vaccination schedules: two-doses 21 days apart for Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and two-doses 28 days apart for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
“At this time, suggesting changes to the FDA-authorized dosing or schedules of these vaccines is premature and not rooted solidly in the available evidence,” reads the statement. “Without appropriate data supporting such changes in vaccine administration, we run a significant risk of placing public health at risk, undermining the historic vaccination efforts to protect the population from COVID-19.”
Meanwhile the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its interim guidance in late January on coronavirus vaccine administration to state that the first and second doses of approved jabs can be given up to six weeks apart.
“The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible,” the CDC stated. “However, if it is not feasible to adhere to the recommended interval, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks (42) days after the first dose. There are currently limited data on the efficacy of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines administered beyond this window. If the second dose is administered beyond these intervals, there is no need to restart the series.”
Fauci’s inconsistent messages on the coronavirus pandemic, relating to masks, herd immunity and return to normalcy post-vaccination, have prompted renewed scrutiny as debate rages over reopening schools and businesses nearly a year after the lockdowns started.
Fox News’ Alexandria Hein,Tyler Olson and Peter Aitken contributed to this report.