(CNSNews.com) - The soon-to-be retired Dr. Anthony Fauci says the COVID pandemic is not over, and he is urging Americans to "keep up on your boosters, because the protection clearly wanes."
Fauci, appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," said booster shots don't prevent infection, but they do prevent severe disease.
And he said the pandemic is not over:
"If you look at where we were a year ago at this time when omicron started to surge, we were having 800,000 to 900,000 infections and 3,000 to 4,000 deaths. I don't like reading in the newspapers or getting my report from the COVID team -- today we lost 400 people, today we lost 350 people.
"So, it's much, much better than it was, but it is not at a level low enough where we should feel we're done with it completely, because we're not."
Host Margaret Brennan asked Fauci, "What is the prevalent strain that you think we're going to be facing this winter? And does the recent booster shot, the bivalent, protect against it?"
"The ones that are on our minds right now that you do remember is the BQ.1 and the BQ.1.1.," Fauci said.
"The reason you keep an eye on those is that they have what's called a transmission advantage, in that they are evasive of the protection that you have.
"Those viruses evade the protection of the monoclonal antibodies, Evusheld and some of the other monoclonal antibodies that are used for treatment, as well as prevention. It also diminishes the protection that is induced by vaccination and by prior infection. It doesn't disappear, but it brings it down a few fold."
Brennan asked if Americans will face a new "cocktail of booster shots" in the spring to counteract the threat posed by the new BQ strains:
"I don't know, because it really depends on what is going to happen in the spring," Fauci said:
"If we get -- and this is what I'm hoping for -- I'm a cautious optimist -- is, by the time we get to the spring, the level of immunity that's induced by infection, with or without vaccination, with or without boosters, among the entire population is such that the level of severe disease and infection is going to go way, way down, and you won't require having every four months or so giving somebody a boost."
Fauci said COVID boosters may end up being once-a-year events, similar to the flu shot:
"That's good, because there's a neatness to that. Once a year, you get it in the fall. But that doesn't take into account that you have to keep up the possibility that we will get a variant that's very different than the variants we have right now that might require a springtime or some summertime boost.
"If it stays the way it is now, I hope it just gets down to that very low level."
Fauci endorsed the Biden administration's call for Congress to pass another $10 billion in COVID funding: "We really do need that money for any of a number of reasons," he said.
"One of which is a practical thing of outreach and PSA campaigns to get people to be vaccinated. We have a long way to go to optimize our protection against COVID, which is really a shame, somewhat paradoxical, that a rich country with all the vaccines that we need and we're utilizing them at a much lower level than we should be."