Dr. Anthony Fauci said a booster shot specifically for the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may not be necessary for vaccinated people.
The White House chief medical advisor said that the existing shots could be enough to provide protection against the new variant.
“I’m not so sure that we’re going to have to get a variant-specific boost vaccine to get an adequate protection from Omicron,” Fauci told the health website STAT in an interview published Friday.
“Because if you look at protection against variants, it appears to relate to the level of immunity and the breadth of the immunity that any given vaccine can instill on you.”
Fauci said that manufacturers are already working on shots that target the variants as a precaution, though more research is needed about how much immunity is provided by the current vaccines.
“The companies are going to be making variant-specific boosters,” Fauci said.
“What I think is something that we need to keep our eye on [is] it could be that things turn out better than we expected.”
First detected in South Africa, the Omicron variant has been labeled a “variant of concern” due to its unprecedented number of mutations to its spike protein, the component of the virus that binds to cells.
Medical authorities around the world feared the mutations would make the latest variant both more deadly and resistant to vaccines — though no research has confirmed that yet.
Fauci’s optimistic prediction about the variant is not necessarily shared by some of the drug companies that developed the existing vaccines.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla had suggested last week that a fourth shot might be necessary to combat the new variant.
“I think we will need a fourth dose,” Bourla told CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” adding that the variant may speed up the timeline for that shot.
He had previously predicted that a fourth shot would be needed a year after the third dose.
“With Omicron we need to wait and see because we have very little information. We may need it faster,” he said.