National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday said health officials knew during the COVID-19 pandemic that contracting the disease ultimately offered a degree of natural immunity to it.

“We were always aware that if you get infected, you have a degree of protection against reinfection,” he told reporters, per the Epoch Times.

Critics of Fauci’s push for nationwide vaccinations long argued that natural immunity offered protection against the virus and thus individuals who contracted COVID-19 didn’t need to opt for one of the nation’s authorized vaccines.

The NIAID director clarified that the natural immunity to COVID-19 becomes less effective over time and was not comparable to the protections one develops after contracting polio, smallpox, or measles.

At the height of the pandemic, Fauci was a high-profile advocate for strict lockdown measures and mask mandates. He often pushed the receipt of both initial vaccines and booster shots despite NIAID researchers discovering that natural immunity led to stronger antibody responses than the Moderna mRNA vaccine.

Fauci has long drawn scrutiny, especially from Republicans, over his endorsement of strict COVID-19 policies. GOP leaders have long been open about their plans to investigate him and his agency over its handling of the virus and his public statements. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Monday said “[o]ne way or another, if we are in the majority, we will subpoena his records and he will testify in the Senate under oath.”

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