After the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine advisory panel rejected a plan on Friday to offer Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to all vaccinated adults 16 and over, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci defended the White House's earlier plan to begin rolling out the shots to the general population this month.
"The approval was for people 65 years of age or older, and a considerable number of people who are 18 to 64 who have underlying conditions that put them at a higher risk for severe disease, and people from 18 to 64 who are in institutional or occupational situations that would put them at an increased risk to exposure and infection," Fauci said Sunday. "So that's a pretty good chunk of the people."
Fauci told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz that he was not disappointed by the panel's decision to recommend that extra Pfizer shots should be given only to those 65 and older or those at high risk of severe COVID-19 and he thinks the process worked.
"We would hope that ultimately when we get the proper vaccination to everyone or we get a more extensive distribution of the boosters, that it will have an effect of stopping the spread, but the -- but the goal of this particular decision was to prevent people from getting serious disease who are at risk, such as the elderly and those that have underlying conditions," Fauci said. "Ultimately, Martha, we hope that enough people will be vaccinated either with the primary regimen or following a third-shot booster with Pfizer that we will get that effect of preventing spread."
The panel also said it supports giving boosters to health care and other front-line workers, including teachers. A final decision is expected within days.
Raddatz pressed Fauci on whether the White House's premature announcement that they would begin rolling out shots to the general population this month created any confusion.
"You yourself have said how important consistency and messaging can be, and you mentioned earlier, President Biden talked about planning for a September 20th rollout for all Americans. I know he said 'planning,' I know he said it depends on the FDA, but isn't a timeline like that just confusing to people?" Raddatz asked.
"These are the kinds of things that when you make a decision, you don't snap your finger and it gets rolled out the next day and that's, I think, the thing that the people in the United States need to understand," he responded.
"The plan was that we have to be ready to do this as soon as the decision is made and when you have a plan, you put a date on it and you say we want to be able to get ready to roll out on the week of September the 20th," Fauci added. "So giving that date, I don't think was confusing. We needed a date to be able to say, let's get ready to roll this out, pending the decision of the deliberation by the FDA and ultimately the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)."
Fauci said on Sunday that in three to four weeks -- as more data from Israel and the U.S. emerge -- the FDA advisory panel will continue to reexamine and modify recommendations for boosters.
"The story is not over because more and more data is coming in and will be coming in," Fauci said.
He also said data on potential booster shots from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines is only "a couple of weeks away" and that the information will be examined in the same manner as Pfizer's data.
COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to soar. The country has reported more than 1.02 million cases over the last week and the U.S. recorded more than 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths in one week, according to federal data.
With many students back in the classroom in person, pediatric COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remain at one of their highest points of the pandemic and Raddatz asked Fauci when a vaccine might be available for children.
"It will certainly be this fall," Fauci responded. "What we're going to almost certainly see is that sometime in the next few weeks -- as we get into October -- we'll be able to see the vaccines for children get enough data to be presented for safety and immunogenicity."
"But in the fall, you know, rather than specifically saying what week, sometime in the mid- to late-fall, we will be seeing enough data from the children from 11 down to 5 to be able to make a decision to vaccinate them," Fauci added.