Anthony Fauci Says U.S. 'Absolutely Prepared' to Offer Third Dose of Vaccine 'Very Quickly'

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday that the U.S. has maintained capacity to offer a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine "very quickly" to the wider population if required.

Amid warnings of rising breakthrough cases, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday that individuals with immunocompromised systems—about 3 percent of U.S. adults—can get a third dose of the vaccine, including individuals who are vulnerable to disease due to organ transplants, certain cancers or other disorders.

Immunocompromised individuals can "get their boosts literally right now," Fauci said in an interview on CBS News' Face the Nation.

Asked about the timeline for the rest of the population, Fauci said federal health officials are "looking at it on a daily and weekly basis in cohorts, not only in the U.S. but in other countries, to determine if, when and to whom we should be giving this."

Fauci covid-19 booster shot third immunocompromised Biden
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with members of media at Abyssinian Baptist Church on June 6, 2021 in New York City. He said Sunday that the U.S. has maintained capacity to offer a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine "very quickly" to the wider population if required. Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

"If it turns out as the data comes in, we see we do need to give an additional dose to people in nursing homes or people who are elderly, we will be absolutely prepared to do that very quickly," Fauci said, without offering a deadline for the evaluation. "We are planning for and looking ahead."

Several states and counties—including Washington state, Los Angeles County and New Jersey—have rolled out a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to individuals with weakened immune systems to offer further protection from the highly contagious Delta variant, which has caused COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations to surge in most parts of the country.

The third shot is not currently considered a booster, but rather an additional dose for people who are unable to develop sufficient immunity from the first two shots.

Officials from the Washington State Department of Health said data suggests that some immunocompromised individuals might not build the same level of immunity compared to those who aren't immunocompromised, and that a third dose could help them develop an extra layer of protection.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told Fox New Sunday that officials will look at case data over the "next couple of weeks" to decide whether to offer a third dose to the wider population this year.

If experts determine that the efficacy of vaccines decline "over months," Collins said the booster shots "may be beginning first with health care providers, as well as people in nursing homes, and then gradually move forward" to other groups including elderly individuals.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for further comment.