Dr. Anthony Fauci said he expects an uptick in vaccination rates following U.S. government approval of Pfizer’s vaccine, and that if enough people do get vaccinated, the country could see COVID-19 under control in the spring of 2022.
The nation’s top infectious disease doctor made the comments Tuesday on NBC’s "Today Show" and to CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
He said the Food and Drug Administration’s decision Monday should encourage people who cited lack of approval as a reason for not getting vaccinated. The FDA previously had cleared the Pfizer shots for use on an emergency basis.
Fauci told NBC’s "Today Show" that FDA approval will mean more "enthusiasm" for vaccine mandates by workplaces, colleges and universities, and the military. He said it will help boost U.S. vaccination rates.
The FDA’s decision clears Pfizer to advertise the vaccine, which Fauci said should also help.
To date, 51.5% of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while just under 61% has received at least one dose of a shot, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
"If we can get through this winter and get really the majority — the overwhelming majority of the 90 million people who have not been vaccinated — vaccinated, I hope we can start to get some good control in the spring of 2022," Fauci said on CNN.
He added the coming winter months will be complicated by the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Though while he looked to the spring as a hopeful timeline, Fauci admitted officials aren’t sure yet what percentage of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated in order for the pandemic to be under control.
"We haven’t been to the point where we’ve gotten there, then fallen below, then seen the virus come back," he said.
He said officials had hoped for a certain degree of control this summer after July 4th, when Biden had set his goal of getting 70% of American adults with at least one vaccination shot. But the delta variant, which is significantly more contagious than previous strains, quickly spread throughout the country.
"We hope we’ll be there (at a level of control in the spring of 2022) ... but there’s no guarantee because it’s up to us," he said. "If we keep lingering without getting those people vaccinated that should be vaccinated, this thing could linger on leading to the development of another variant that could complicate things."
"This is a very wily virus," he added.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, arrives to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on July 20, 2021 in Washington, DC.
The U.S. is seeing another surge in cases and hospitalizations as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread and vaccination rates stall.
Though while vaccine administration rates stalled in July, the number has increased in recent days — with a million a day given Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Fauci also said officials are recommending those who get COVID and recover still get vaccinated afterward.
"The degree of protection that you can induce in someone who’s been infected who has then recovered and then is vaccinated is an enormous increase in the degree of protection," he said.
This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.