Public health officials are sticking with the recommendation that people get booster shots eight months after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but that could change based on reviewing the data, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday.
"We're still sticking with the eight months," the chief medical adviser for the White House told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz. "However, as we've said, even in the original statement that came out, we're gonna have to go through the standard way of the (Food and Drug Administration) looking at the data and then the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. So although we're sticking with eight, we're remaining flexible, that if the data tells us differently, we'll make adjustments accordingly."
As the U.S. prepares a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot program, President Joe Biden said on Friday that the administration is considering whether booster shots should be given as early as five months after vaccination. Biden was meeting with the Israeli prime minister and credited his advice that the U.S. should start earlier.
The U.S. has continued to experience its steepest rise in COVID-19 related hospitalizations since the winter of 2020, with more than 101,000 patients hospitalized across the country with COVID-19, as of Thursday. This marked the highest number of patients hospitalized with the virus in seven months.
Pediatric hospital admissions for children under 18 with COVID-19 were also up by 514% since July Fourth, as of Friday.
"I really want to concentrate on school kids with you this morning. As we transition into the fall, of course, we have all these kids going to school and pediatric hospital admissions are at the highest point of the pandemic. Does the delta variant just hit them harder than we expected? What's happening?" Raddatz asked Fauci.
"Well what we're seeing is that this variant, Martha, is highly transmissible ... so you're going to see more children infected and quantitatively, since more children are infected, you're gonna see more children, unfortunately, getting hospitalized and that's what we're seeing," Fauci said.
"And what's the latest timetable for getting vaccine shots for children under 12?" Raddatz pressed.
Fauci said that the FDA should be examining the data on children under 12 toward the middle or end of September.
"Hopefully we'll be acting quickly, depending on the data, and their assessment of the risk-benefit ratio," Fauci said.
But the nation's top infectious disease doctor also emphasized that there are other ways to protect unvaccinated children as they head back to school.
"You can protect children who can't get vaccinated because of their age yet. We can protect them by surrounding them with a community of people who are vaccinated. That's how you protect children. And you also do it by complying with the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines about masking, particularly masking in school, even though you have vaccinated teachers and vaccinated personnel. You want to give that extra, added level of protection for the children."
Raddatz also asked Fauci about an unclassified report released on Friday by the intelligence community that did not come to any definitive conclusion over the origins of the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China. The agencies that worked on the report wrote that two hypotheses are still possible: "natural exposure to an infected animal" or "a laboratory-associated incident."
"It was inconclusive. Will we ever know?" Raddatz asked Fauci.
"You know, I hope so, Martha, because it will help us to avoid this in the future. But we will need the cooperation of Chinese scientists and Chinese public health officials, if we're gonna do the proper surveillance serologically of people who were infected in China, as well as the animals; being able to assess whether or not animals have viruses that are closely related to SARS-COV-2. We'll need to do that in China with the cooperation of the Chinese," Fauci said.
ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.