Vaccinated families can ‘feel good’ about holiday gatherings, Fauci says

The country’s top infectious disease expert is giving the thumbs up for families to gather for the upcoming holidays if all eligible members have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

"If you get vaccinated and your family's vaccinated, you can feel good about enjoying a typical Thanksgiving, Christmas with your family and close friends," Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday.

"This will end," he continued, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. "We are not going to be going through this indefinitely. How quickly we get to the end depends on us, how well we vaccinate, how well we get boosted and how well we do the kinds of things to protect ourselves."

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Meanwhile, the CDC has issued guidelines for gatherings during the holidays. The agency recommends mask-wearing over both the nose and mouth in public indoor settings for the unvaccinated, and those who are fully vaccinated are advised to wear a well-fitted mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission. The agency also recommends that people who are not yet fully vaccinated do not travel.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country is seeing an uptick in daily COVID-19 cases, with nearly 26,000 new infections reported on Sunday. The seven-day average hovers close to 81,000 cases, up from nearly 64,000 cases in late October. 

U.S. health officials hope the country will avoid a fifth wave with expanded access to vaccines to children 5 years and older, though there are signs in some states that a winter wave may be unavoidable. In Colorado, hospitals have moved to crisis standards of care as a crush of COVID-19 patients inundates ICUs.

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According to the CDC, more than 227 million Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, representing 68.4% of the total population. 

Earlier this month, U.S. health officials gave clearance for children between 5 and 11 years old to get the COVID-19 vaccine. About 900,000 children received their first dose within the first week of eligibility.

However, much of the focus also remains on whether to expand booster shots to more Americans. 

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Pfizer asked U.S. regulators last week to allow boosters of its COVID-19 vaccine for anyone 18 or older, a step that comes amid concern about increased spread of the coronavirus with holiday travel and gatherings. Older Americans and other groups particularly vulnerable to the virus have had access to a third dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine since September. But the Food and Drug Administration has said it would move quickly to expand boosters to younger ages if warranted.

Pfizer is submitting early results of a booster study in 10,000 people to make its case that it’s time to further expand the booster campaign.

Pfizer’s new study concluded a booster could restore protection against symptomatic infection to about 95%, even as the extra-contagious delta variant was surging. Side effects were similar to those seen with the company’s first two shots.

Also, anyone eligible for a booster doesn’t have to stick with their initial vaccination type and can get a different company’s vaccine in what’s called mixing and matching.

The Biden administration had originally envisioned boosters for all adults, but faced a stinging setback in September when the FDA’s scientific advisers rejected extra Pfizer doses for everyone. The panel wasn’t convinced that young healthy people needed another dose, particularly when most of the world’s population remains unvaccinated, and instead recommended boosters just for certain groups — one of a series of decisions about extra doses for all of the three vaccines used in the U.S.

FOX News and the Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.