Fauci pushes new word for 'mandates,' admits changing 'fully vaccinated' definition 'certainly on the table'

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Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday that the possibility of changing the definition for fully vaccinated is “certainly on the table” as the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge due to the omicron variant. 

Reporters have continued to ask Fauci and the White House about the possibility of changing the definition, which currently states a person is fully vaccinated when they have received two doses of a Pfizer or Moderna regimen or a shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In the face of omicron, some have suggested the definition should include a booster shot. 

Fauci maintained for weeks that the definition would not change until new data suggested it should, but Friday morning he finally planted his flag in the war of words around the pandemic when he suggested that some terms may – and in one case, should – change.

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks about the Omicron coronavirus variant during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, Dec. 1, 2021. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

“It is a bit of semantics in that fully vaccinated for the purpose of the regulations and requirements that people have is to be what are you considered as being fully vaccinated.” Fauci said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “But there’s no doubt that optimum vaccination is with a booster. I mean, there is no doubt about that.”

He also discussed the difficulty in pushing “mandates,” instead suggesting that people should discuss “requirements” as a more palatable term.  

Staff Sgt. Travis Snyder, left, receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine given at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, Dec. 16, 2020, south of Seattle.  (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) 

“Mandates — that’s a radioactive word. Requirements people seem to respond better to that. They work,” Fauci argued. “We are never going to get out of this outbreak if we still have 50 million people who for reasons that are very difficult to understand refuse to get vaccinated.”

Fauci has walked this line in the past two weeks, making a distinction between “fully” vaccinated versus “optimum” vaccination. 

Nurse Mary Ezzat prepares to administer a Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot to Jessica M., Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, at UCI Medical Center in Orange, Calif.
(Jeff Gritchen/The Orange County Register via AP)

Fauci first suggested that health officials would look at changing the definition on Nov. 21 when he told “State of the Union” host Dana Bash, “We’re going to take a look right now at what the durability is of the booster.” He maintained at that time that the definition would remain the same. 

But in the following weeks he started to stress that “optimum” vaccination would include a booster. 

Omicron has driven new cases up across the country: New York and Florida have seen new cases double since mid-November, while California and Texas have also seen sharp rises, though not to that same degree. 

The new variant appears to spread more than the delta variant while only creating mild symptoms so far. 

Hospitalizations and deaths have not increased to the same degree if at all: New York has seen hospitalizations almost double from 600 to 1,100 since mid-November, but deaths have not changed in that time. California and Florida have not seen changes to either number. 

The United States has yet to record a death as a result of the omicron variant. 

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