U.S. could control COVID by spring 2022 if more people get shots - Fauci

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FILE PHOTO: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on federal government coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response in Washington
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By Susan Heavey and Carl O'Donnell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States could get COVID-19 under control by early next year if vaccinations ramp up, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday, one day after Pfizer won fuller FDA approval for its shot, with more potential approvals coming in the weeks ahead.

Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said in multiple television interviews and a White House press conference that full Food and Drug Administration approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine paves the way for more people to get inoculated https://tmsnrt.rs/3tUM8ta, with potential approval for Moderna Inc's in the coming weeks and authorization for younger children by autumn.

"I would like to appeal to the people in the country who are not vaccinated to realize that we have the capability, among ourselves, to essentially cut down the time frame to getting to the end of this pandemic," Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Tuesday press conference.

"I think there's a reasonable chance" that Pfizer or Moderna could get FDA clearance for children under 12 before the upcoming holiday season, he told NBC News. "Hopefully by the mid-late fall and early winter."

U.S. officials during the Tuesday press briefing also urged private employers and more state and local governments to require staff to get vaccinated in a bid to drive up vaccination rates.

"Now is the time" for U.S. employers to start mandating vaccinations, White House COVID coordinator Jeffrey Zients said, echoing remarks from President Joe Biden on Monday.

Meanwhile, the White House is preparing to provide third "booster" doses starting in mid-September to Americans who received their COVID-19 inoculation more than eight months ago. The plan depends upon a thumbs up from the FDA and an advisory panel to the CDC.

"We want to make sure we stay ahead of the virus," Zients said, adding that "the plan is pending the FDA conducting an independent evaluation and outside experts... issuing a booster dose recommendation."

Fauci added that healthcare providers should also make more use of COVID-19 antibody treatments, including those from Eli Lilly & Co, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and GlaxoSmithKline Plc/Vir Biotechnology Inc. Such treatments can reduce hospitalizations and deaths by as much as 85% if used early in infected people, he said.

The United States is battling another wave of cases https://tmsnrt.rs/2WkNEK5 due to the highly contagious Delta variant. Hospitalizations and deaths are also rising, particularly in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and other parts of the U.S. South.

The average number of deaths from COVID-19 has risen by 23% over the previous seven-day period, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a Tuesday press call. The United States is now averaging 1,000 COVID deaths a day and over 150,000 new cases, according to a Reuters tally.

U.S. health officials have also noted the number of inoculations has also risen in recent weeks and say they hope Monday's FDA action spurs more people get their first shots.

The U.S. military, along with several businesses and universities, including CVS Health Corp, privately held Deloitte and at least one college football team, have moved ahead with COVID vaccine mandates since the FDA's announcement, which also buoyed Wall Street.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Carl O'Donnell; additional reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Dan Grebler and Lisa Shumaker)

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