With thebecoming the dominant coronavirus strain, Pfizer said Thursday it’s making . The new booster shot will target the highly contagious delta mutation, which has spread to 100 countries and is responsible for a growing number of new infections in the US.
In a recent press release, Pfizer said a third shot of its vaccine would enhance the immunity of those who’ve already received the first two vaccine shots. In addition to creating a booster for its existing vaccine, the drugmaker said it would formulate a new version of its COVID-19 vaccine to target the delta variant. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration responded with a joint statement that fully vaccinated Americans “do not need a booster shot at this time.”
Earlier this month, the CDC and World Health Organizationon the need for fully vaccinated people to wear face masks. That debate, along with the ongoing discussion of booster shots, underscores how scientists and other health experts continue to grapple with the uncertainties of COVID-19 as restrictions loosen. Here’s what we know about Pfizer’s plans for a booster, and why the CDC and FDA caution against it, at least for now.
Why would Pfizer develop a COVID-19 booster shot?
Along with Moderna, Pfizer’s current two-dose vaccine provides effective protection against all known variants of COVID-19 — including the delta variant. Studies have shown the Pfizer vaccine to be over 90% effective against the virus. So why is the drugmaker pushing for a booster shot?
Pfizer said its own research showed a third booster of its current vaccine increased antibody levels five to 10 times higher over its two-dose shots. The company noted its results have not been published or peer-reviewed.
Pfizer said it believes the level of protection the two doses of its vaccine provide can decrease over time, and a third booster dose may be needed “within six to 12 months” after a person is fully vaccinated. To prepare for the booster, Pfizer is testing both the effectiveness of a third dose of its current vaccine and working on an updated version targeting the delta variant.
When would clinical trials for the booster shot take place?
Pfizer said it would begin clinical trials on the booster in August as it seeks approval from government regulators for a third dose. The company says a third shot given at least six months after the second shot in its original vaccine series would enhance protection against the delta variant, which has been known to infect fully vaccinated people (also here).
What are the CDC and FDA saying in response?
“People who are fully vaccinated are protected from severe disease and death, including from the variants currently circulating in the country such as Delta,” the CDC and FDA said in a joint statement, without naming Pfizer. The government agencies emphasized the need for all eligible people to receive full doses of one of the approved vaccines, all of which are free.
The CDC and FDA said the question of a booster requires extensive scientific data and doesn’t depend on the input from pharmaceutical companies alone. “Virtually all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are among those who are unvaccinated,” the statement mentioned, adding that the agencies will approve booster doses “if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.”
Would the booster shot be free of cost?
The current one-dose vaccine shot from Johnson & Johnson and two-dose versions from Moderna and Pfizer are free to anyone who wants to get vaccinated. According to the Biden administration, COVID-19 booster shots will also be free, if and when they’re approved…Read more>>