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Health officials sticking with 8-month COVID booster shot timeline: Fauci

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(WASHINGTON) — Public health officials are sticking with the recommendation that people get booster shots eight months after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but that could change based on reviewing the data, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday.

“We’re still sticking with the eight months,” the chief medical adviser for the White House told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz. “However, as we’ve said, even in the original statement that came out, we’re gonna have to go through the standard way of the (Food and Drug Administration) looking at the data and then the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. So although we’re sticking with eight, we’re remaining flexible, that if the data tells us differently, we’ll make adjustments accordingly. But for now, we’re sticking with the eight.”

As the U.S. prepares a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot program, President Joe Biden said on Friday that the administration is considering whether booster shots should be given as early as five months after vaccination. Biden was meeting with the Israeli prime minister and credited his advice that the U.S. should start earlier.

The new daily COVID-19 case average in the U.S. has risen to 142,000, and is 130,000 daily cases higher than the average was about two months ago, as of Thursday. The U.S. has also continued to experience its steepest rise in COVID-19 related hospitalizations since the winter of 2020, with more than 101,000 patients hospitalized across the country with COVID-19. This marked the highest number of patients hospitalized with the virus in seven months.

Pediatric hospital admissions for children under 18 with COVID-19 were also up by 514% since July Fourth, as of Friday.

Regarding when children under 12 will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Fauci said that the FDA should be examining the data toward the middle or end of September.

“Hopefully we’ll be acting quickly, depending on the data, and their assessment of the risk-benefit ratio,” Fauci said.

But the nation’s top infectious disease doctor also emphasized that there are other ways to protect unvaccinated children as they head back to school amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the delta variant of the virus.

“You can protect children who can’t get vaccinated because of their age. Yes, we can protect them by surrounding them with a community of people who are vaccinated. That’s how you protect children. And you also do it by complying with the CDC guidance about masking, particularly masking in school, even though you have vaccinated teachers and vaccinated personnel. You want to give that extra, added level of protection for the children.”

Fauci also addressed an unclassified report released on Friday by the intelligence community that did not come to any definitive conclusion over the origins of the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China. The agencies that worked on the report wrote that two hypotheses are still possible: “natural exposure to an infected animal” or “a laboratory-associated incident.”

When asked if the origins will ever be known, Fauci said, “You know, I hope so … because it will help us to avoid this in the future. But we will need the cooperation of Chinese scientists and Chinese public health officials, if we’re gonna do the proper surveillance serologically of people who were infected in China, as well as the animals; being able to asses whether or not animals had viruses that are closely related to SARS-COV-2. We’ll need to do that in China with the cooperation of the Chinese,” Fauci said.

ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.

This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

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