“We were always aware that if you get infected, you have a degree of protection against reinfection,” Fauci remarked in response to a question from a reporter with The Hill.
He later said that the protection afforded by natural immunity and vaccination “wanes over a period of time,” which is “very, very different” from other infections like polio, smallpox, and measles.
“The people who were talking about natural immunity were making an assumption … that once you get infected, you are essentially protected very, very well for a period of time,” Fauci said. He claimed that individuals who have been infected and vaccinated have the best protection, describing that phenomenon as “hybrid immunity.”
Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fauci and other federal health officials have favored COVID-19 vaccinations over natural immunity and have frequently urged Americans to get both vaccines and booster shots, while often suggesting that unvaccinated individuals were to blame for the continued spread of the virus.
On July 11, 2021, Fauci also called on local governments and schools to require COVID-19 vaccines, telling CNN that “there should be more mandates.”
The Biden administration last September also tried to issue a sweeping vaccine mandate for tens of millions of workers at private businesses, which was ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court in January as well as a mandate requiring most health care staff to receive the shots. When asked about the vaccine mandates in October 2021, Fauci defended the administration’s policies.
“Things like mandating, be they masks or vaccinations, they’re very important,” Fauci told Fox News on Oct. 17, 2021. “We’re not living in a vacuum as individuals. We’re living in a society, and society needs to be protected. And you do that by not only protecting yourself but by protecting the people around you, by getting vaccinated.”
However, Fauci conceded on July 13 that COVID-19 vaccines aren’t effective at preventing the transmission of the virus. Instead, the shots are better at protecting individuals from severe symptoms and hospitalizations, he added.
“One of the things that’s clear from the data [is] that … vaccines—because of the high degree of transmissibility of this virus—don’t protect overly well, as it were, against infection,” he told Fox News.
Although Fauci has headed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease for nearly 30 years, he became a household name in early 2020 when he began delivering interviews to media outlets about the COVID-19 pandemic, essentially serving as the federal government’s top pandemic spokesperson.
In clarifying remarks last week, Fauci said that he is “not going to retire” and “may step down from my current position at some time.”