(CNSNews.com) - Mask on, mask off? Booster shots for whom? When to get them? Which one to get? What does fully vaccinated mean nowadays?
As the patchwork of pandemic guidance continues to roll out of the CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday endorsed booster shots for everyone who's been fully vaccinated.
He said the nation's top medical experts continues to "follow the data," "there's no confusion," and "there's no lack of clarity."
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally okayed booster shots for everyone over 18 after initially restricting the boosters to high-risk groups based on age and infirmity.
"Well, I think the data became very, very clear," Fauci told ABC's "This Week."
We were looking at data when I was saying that I really felt very strongly that we should be getting boosters to everyone. The data was coming from -- mostly from Israel and other countries.
But now that you look at the data as it's evolved in the United States, it's very clear. They wanted to make sure that the safety signals were right, and once that became very clear, right now, very, very -- I'm very pleased that we're in a situation where there's no -- there's no confusion. There's no lack of clarity, that if you've been vaccinated with a primary vaccination, with an mRNA vaccine, either the Pfizer or the Moderna six months or more ago, get boosted and the same with regard to J&J, if you were vaccinated two months ago, get boosted.
And that's really now clear. There's no ambiguity about that, and we really hope that people go out there and utilize this very important tool to optimize their status with regard to protection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says everyone over 18 "may" get a booster shot," but everyone over 50 and those in long-term care settings "should" get a booster.
Now it's fine to mix-and-match: "Any of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States can be used for the booster dose," CDC said.
Fauci indicated that the definition of "fully vaccinated" has not changed -- yet.
"Right now, if you look at the data that we have, fully vaccinated right now by definition is the original two doses with the mRNA and the Pfizer and Moderna, and a single dose with J&J.
"We'll continue to follow the data because right now when we're boosting people, what we're doing following them, we're going to see what the durability of that protection is. And as we always do, you just follow and let the data guide your policy, and let the data guide your recommendations."
Fauci said the experts are looking "very carefully" at how often booster shots will be needed.
You know, we follow the data, and there's always -- it's so easy to predict, Martha, about how often you would need it. We would hope, and this is something that we're looking at very carefully, that that third shot with the mRNA not only boosts you way up, but increases the durability so that you will not necessarily need it every six months or a year. We're hoping it pushes it out more.
If it doesn't, and the data show we do need it more often, then we'll do it, but we want to make sure we get the population optimally protected and you do whatever you need to do, to make sure you do that.
My hope as an immunologist, as an infectious disease person, that that maturation of the response increasing its strength and power will be followed by a greater durability. That's what I'm hoping for. If it doesn't happen, we'll act accordingly.
With the holidays upon us, Fauci said people who are fully immunized and or boosted "can enjoy a typical Thanksgiving meal, Thanksgiving holiday with your family. There's no reason not to do that."
But as the contagious delta variant is blamed for another spike in COVID cases, unvaccinated people are "the major source of the dynamics of the infection in the community," Fauci said.
"And the higher the level of dynamics of infection, the more everyone is at risk."
Since the first cases of COVID were diagnosed in the United States, 765,320 people have died with or because of the disease, based on death certificates submitted as of November 17 to the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the CDC.
Those 765,320 people with "COVID-involved deaths" represent 12.3 percent of the 6,222,238 deaths from all causes documented by NCHS.
It continues to be true that COVID-involved deaths rise along with age.
Since the start of the pandemic, 605 children ages 0-17 have died of COVID-involved illness, representing only 0.079 percent of COVID deaths. Since January 2020, 50,491 people age 49 or younger have died of COVID, which is 6.59 percent of total COVID deaths, based on death certificates tabulated by NCHS.
The vast majority of deaths -- 714,829, or 93.40 percent -- have occurred in people age 50 and older.
Some of the major risk factors, according to CDC, include obesity, compromised immune systems, repiratory ailments, diabetes, and flu/pneumonia.