Millions of Americans still need to get vaccinated in order to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19 and getting the pandemic under control could take "many, many" more vaccine mandates, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said if more people aren't persuaded to get vaccinated by messaging from health officials and "trusted political messengers," additional mandates from schools and businesses may be necessary.
"I believe that's going to turn this around because I don't think people are going to want to not go to work or not go to college ... They're going to do it," Fauci told CNN during an interview at the NLGJA, the Association of LGBTQ Journalists, convention Sunday. "You'd like to have them do it on a totally voluntary basis, but if that doesn't work, you've got to go to the alternatives."
The combination of the highly contagious delta variant and the vaccine holdouts has put the United States in a "very difficult period" of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fauci said.
Of the eligible population in the U.S., which is currently limited to people 12 and older, 63% are fully vaccinated, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health experts and officials are aiming for the vast majority of the population to be inoculated to control the spread.
Last week, President Joe Biden announced new vaccine requirements, which include a mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees to require vaccination or regular testing for employees. The plan was met with praise and criticism.
Businesses that want employees to return to work and stay at work will benefit from vaccine requirements, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said. The mandate will benefit employees as well, he added.
"I believe that will not only improve public health, but it will give people some more peace of mind," Murthy told CNN Sunday.
But Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson argued that the requirements may backfire.
"We have to overcome resistance," Hutchinson said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "This is a very serious, deadly virus and we're all together in trying to get an increased level of vaccination out in the population. The problem is that I'm trying to overcome resistance but the president's actions in a mandate hardens the resistance."
As the debate over mandates continues, some hospitals are feeling the impact of lagging vaccination rates.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis sounded the alarm Friday, saying, "We actually have the lowest ICU available rate that we've had since the start of this crisis, in part due to the unvaccinated with COVID and just other types of trauma that goes up seasonally this time of year."
Polis said some hospitals in his state "reaching very close to their capacity limits. And that wouldn't be happening if people were vaccinated."
Children could get access to vaccines by Halloween
Parents concerned about protecting their young children from the virus could have access to vaccinations for them by for Halloween, said the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who is a board member at Pfizer, told CBS Sunday the company is expected to have data on vaccinations for children ages 5-11 ready for the FDA by the end of September.
"The FDA says it will be a matter of weeks, not months, to make a determination if they're going to authorize vaccines for kids between 5 to 11. I interpret that to be perhaps four weeks, maybe six weeks," said Gottlieb.
While hopeful that vaccines for young children will soon be available, the FDA cautioned parents not to race to vaccinate their children before approval from the agency.
"Children are not small adults — and issues that may be addressed in pediatric vaccine trials can include whether there is a need for different doses or different strength formulations of vaccines already used for adults," the FDA said in a statement Friday.
Until it is safe to vaccinate that age group, Dr. James Versalovic, pathologist-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital, told CBS that prevention is crucial.
"In addition to prevention ... we need to continue to emphasize to all parents and families the importance of timely diagnosing through testing," Versalovic said. "And then triage the care appropriately. Decide whether that child needs hospital-based care. We know how to treat children at this point in the pandemic."
NYC to welcome back 100% of students
The concern over children's risk of becoming infected has increased as many return to their classrooms for a new school year.
Monday is the first time New York City public schools are anticipating 100% of students back since last year.
"We've been working for 18 months to get ready for this day," New York Education Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter told CNN Friday.
As for safety concerns, all students and teachers returning to school on Monday will be required to wear masks and the city previously announced a vaccine mandate for all public school employees with no testing opt out.
Last week, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio announced 72% of teachers are vaccinated and 65% of students 12-17 years old have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
On Friday, the United Federation of Teachers said in a statement, that an independent arbitrator decided teachers who have documented or religious exemptions must be offered a non-classroom assignment.
In some parts of the country, a return to campus has coincided with a surge in pediatric cases.
At Texas Children's Hospital, Versalovic said, "We continue to be on a high plateau. The reality is we may be headed to another peak — or another valley if we all pull together."
Gottlieb said even though COVID-19 case rates may be declining in some older age groups, "it's continuing to increase is in school-aged children."
Putting students in "pods" in schools and routine asymptomatic testing can help reduce transmission, Gottlieb said.
"Rather than quarantine that whole classroom, you just test them in a serial fashion to make sure that you didn't have an exposure that led to a downstream case and so you can actually use testing to prevent quarantines." Gottlieb said during an Axios event Friday.