Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday said he expects the Food and Drug Administration to authorize the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use and urged Americans to get vaccinated whenever it becomes available to them.
In an interview with NBC's "TODAY" show, Fauci told co-host Savannah Guthrie that he expects "nothing but good news" Friday when the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is expected to vote to recommend authorization of the vaccine.
"To have two is fine; to have three is absolutely better," Fauci, the nation's top disease expert, said. "It's better because there are more choices. It's better because it increases the supply of vaccines."
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be administered in a single shot, whereas the other two vaccines in use from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech require two doses, three to four weeks apart. Federal documents indicated that the newest vaccine was overall safe and highly effective — 86 percent — against the most severe outcomes of the disease.
When asked by Guthrie about the varying percentage effectiveness of each Covid-19 vaccine, Fauci urged Americans to "take the vaccine" whenever it becomes available.
"This is a race, Savannah, between the virus and getting vaccines into people," Fauci said. "The longer one waits on getting vaccinated, the better chance the virus has to get a variant or mutation."
Fauci’s interview came in the wake of Pfizer and BioNTech announcing Thursday that the drugmakers would begin testing a new version of their Covid-19 vaccine that was designed to specifically target emerging variants in South Africa.
He said that even with variants the vaccine might be less effective against, "the vaccine is still good against severe disease."
On Wednesday, Moderna announced that the company was shipping doses of its variant-specific booster shot to the National Institutes of Health for clinical trials.
The developments were part of a larger effort to counter strains of the coronavirus that are constantly mutating and circulating around the world. Studies found that the two separate Covid-19 vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech were both effective against the U.K. variant, which was the predominant strain spreading in the U.S.
Fauci warned that more emerging variants would occur, which was all the more reason to get vaccinated, saying, "Viruses don't mutate unless you give them the chance to replicate."