Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he was hopeful the Food and Drug Administration will fully approve the vaccines, which have been administered under emergency use authorizations, by the end of the month.
“No one wants to get ahead of the FDA because they’re an independent group that makes their decisions and that’s god in many respects because there will never be any concern that we’re influencing them,” Fauci said during an appearance on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “But I hope, I don’t predict, but I hope that it will be within the next few weeks.”
He added that the federal approval could lead to “the empowerment of local enterprises” such as businesses, colleges and universities to mandate COVID-19 vaccines.
“I strongly support that,” said Fauci. “The time has come and we’ve got to go the extra step to get people vaccinated. You want to persuade them, that’s good. And I believe that some people, on their own, once it gets approved as a full approval will go ahead and get vaccinated. But for those who do not want, I believe mandates at the local level need to be done.”
As of Sunday 50.1% of all Americans are fully vaccinated, including 61.1% of adults, while 58.7% of the population and 71% of adults have received at least one shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, echoed Fauci’s comments in an interview with ABC News “This Week,” saying he applauds businesses that issue vaccine mandates, as well as President Joe Biden’s mandate for federal workers, adding he believes “they can make a difference.”
“I think we ought to use every public health tool we can when people are dying,” he said. “Death rates are starting up again … We are on a very steep up swift of that curve and we ought to be thinking of every possible intervention.”
Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has reported world-leading totals of 35,757,980 COVID-19 infections and 616,816 deaths, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.
As the more contagious Delta variant accounts for more than 80% of new cases throughout the country, with southern states such as Louisiana, Florida and Texas, in particular, experiencing surges, the seven-day moving case average has risen to 99,727, according to the CDC.
States that are experiencing surges have also reported increased rates of COVID-19 infections among children.
In Louisiana, which has the highest rate of new cases per capita in the nation, Gov. John Bell Edwards announced Friday that more than 3,000 children had tested positive for the virus within four days. The state had a total of 6,000 positive cases among children, the most since the beginning of the pandemic.
Florida, which ranks just behind Louisiana in cases per capita, has also seen children’s hospitals “overwhelmed” with COVID-19 patients.
“Our pediatricians, the nursing, the staff are exhausted and the children are suffering,” Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University told CNN.
Vaccines are not yet available to children younger than 12 and Fauci recommended that school children wear masks and all adult staff in schools be vaccinated.
“Protect the kids with a shield of vaccinated people,” Fauci said. “For the kids who can’t get vaccinated, that’s the reason why we’re having a strong recommendation that, in the schools, everybody should wear a mask, whether or not you’re vaccinated.”