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What Fauci sees coming with the BA.2 coronavirus subvariant in the U.S.

Anthony Fauci predicts that the U.S. will eventually get to the point where COVID-19 vaccines are administered yearly, as the flu vaccine is.
Kevin Dietsch
/
Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Anthony Fauci predicts that the U.S. will eventually get to the point where COVID-19 vaccines are administered yearly, as the flu vaccine is.

The U.S. could follow the trend of the United Kingdom and see a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the BA.2 subvariant of the coronavirus, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The chief medical adviser to President Biden said that though cases are still trending down across the U.S., some states are seeing a rise.

"I think without a doubt that we are going to see a turnaround as people get out more and into the inside venues without masks," he said. "That's going to be certainly resulting in infections, even in people who are vaccinated."

New modeling from the Commonwealth Fund shows the vaccination campaign in the U.S. has saved more than 2 million lives and has prevented 17 million hospitalizations.

Fauci said that a second booster shot may be needed for Americans by the fall and that eventually vaccination could shift to a yearly injection, like with the flu vaccine.

Speaking to All Things Considered, Fauci walks through what he sees coming for the U.S., the thinking behind boosters and the advice for masking indoors.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

On what the BA.2 subvariant will do in the U.S.

I think we're going to be seeing an uptick of cases that we are already seeing in certain states. We had a very sharp and steady decline in everything from cases to hospitalizations to deaths, and in general, on a countrywide basis, we're still seeing that. But there are some areas, particularly in the Northeast, where we are seeing a turnaround and an uptick in cases.

If our pattern follows that of the U.K., which we usually do and are usually about three to four weeks behind them, they are having a significant upsurge in the number of cases. We are hoping that if that does happen, the degree of background immunity that we have in the country ... [means] we will not see an increase in severity in the sense of a concomitant increase significantly in the number of hospitalizations.

On the need for a second booster shot by the fall

It's difficult to predict. But I would think, given the fact that immunity wanes over a period of time ... that we will need a boost by the time we get to the fall.

I don't foresee the need to boost every four months. But what I would imagine might happen, as all of this turns around, we will get into what might be a yearly, seasonal type of an approach. We have something perhaps similar to flu.

I'm saying this merely as extrapolations. No one knows for certain what will be required. We will have to just look at the data and make decisions.

On not masking at indoor events

The CDC was very clear when they modified their metrics to make recommendations for indoor masking and said that when the level of infection in the community gets low enough so that it's in what we call the green zone, you could do that with indoor events.

But if it changes and the cases go up, I for one will go back to masking indoors if we go with a high uptick of cases.

This interview was produced by Linah Mohammad and edited by Amy Isackson.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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