Did Fauci change his tune on booster shots?

He’s changed his tune on everything else at one point or another during the pandemic. Why not on this?

Six days ago, before the FDA advisory panel met, he assured a TV audience that boosters were warranted based on the data he’d seen, some of it unpublished. Three days later, the FDA’s advisory panel met, sifted through that same data, and concluded … no, boosters aren’t necessary, not for the general population. They were recommended for senior citizens and other at-risk people but those below retirement age would need to be make do with two doses for now.

Jake Tapper pressed Fauci about that yesterday. Given his own support for boosters, isn’t he forced to conclude that the FDA panel made a mistake?

Of course not, Fauci said;

“I don’t think they made a mistake,” Fauci said during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union. “We would want to plan for the possibility of vaccinating all those who have gotten their initial vaccination with Pfizer, and it was always pending the evaluation of all of the totality of the data from the United States, from Israel, and any bit of data that we could get, by the advisory committee to the FDA.”…

When confronted by State of the Union host Jake Tapper about his earlier insistence that booster shots should be approved, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), clarified that his support was based on his own personal stance as a scientist. He said that despite his own feeling on the matter, he can support the decisions of an informed expert panel.

Tapper also asked him whether it wasn’t a little, well, stupid that Biden announced a month ago that all adults would be eligible for boosters this week when his scientific brain trust hadn’t signed off on that yet. Not really, said Fauci, because Biden said at the time that the timetable would depend on what the FDA and CDC.

Okay, said Tapper, but isn’t it needlessly confusing to have the president setting target dates which he had no reason to believe he could keep? (And not for the first time, per the Afghanistan withdrawal fiasco.)

I can understand how some people might find that confusing, Fauci replied, drily.

He and his boss at NIH, Francis Collins, each appear to support boosters for everyone but the decision of the FDA panel left them with a messaging challenge. If you watched their interviews yesterday morning, you know that they’re following a two-step communications strategy in response. Step one: Back the panel’s decision that not everyone needs a booster now. The last thing the public needs in trying to figure out what to do about third doses is to have top scientists openly disagreeing with each other about whether they’re needed. Step two: Hint as heavily as you can that the entire general population will be eligible for boosters sooner or later, probably sooner, and ask everyone to be patient. Fauci and Collins continue to believe that they’re right, in other words, they’re just expecting it to take longer than they thought for the FDA to catch up to them. Watch:

Fauci made the same point to Tapper, as you’ll see. As data on waning immunity across the population continues to trickle in, the FDA will adjust the eligibility for a third dose. Once scientists see that more middle-aged vaccinated people are landing in the hospital, they’ll be greenlit for boosters too. Hopefully not too many of us die while we’re waiting for the agency to amass some arbitrary amount of statistical confidence that third shots are “needed.”

At least Fauci’s not doing a vaccine version of the “noble lie” he told on masks 15 months ago. At the time, he claimed that masks weren’t needed because he feared the public would buy up the limited existing supply of PPE that medical pros needed for hospital work. It would have been easy for him to lie again now and claim that people under 65 don’t need a booster because he’s worried about making sure that senior citizens have priority in accessing the available stockpile of doses. Instead, he seems pretty gung ho on getting everyone boosted. It’s the FDA panel that’s moving slowly, not him.

Here he is with Tapper. Jen Psaki promised this morning that Biden will get his booster shot on camera as soon as he’s eligible. Which, given that he’s a thousand years old, should be immediately.