Pfizer CEO says people will probably need yearly Covid booster shot

The chief executive of Pfizer said people will probably need a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine within 12 months of being fully inoculated and may have to receive annual booster jabs.

“There will be likely a need for a third dose somewhere between six and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination,” Albert Bourla said in an interview with CVS Health that aired on Thursday.

As the US continues to vaccinate millions of people per day, attention has turned to emerging safely from the pandemic and the extent to which annual vaccinations similar to flu jabs will be required to keep the virus under control in the long term. 

Bourla’s comments came as US health officials testified before Congress on how to control the spread of the virus after the pandemic subsides.

David Kessler, chief science officer to the White House coronavirus task force, told a Congressional committee: “I think we should expect that we may have to boost . . . and the current thinking is that certainly those who are more vulnerable may have to go first.”

“But I think you have that with many vaccines, we understand that at a certain point in time we need to boost, whether that’s nine months, 12 months, and we are preparing for that coming,” he added. 

Earlier this month, data from Pfizer and BioNTech showed that their mRNA vaccine was 91 per cent effective against the virus six months on from the second dose.

“Protection goes down by time but still in the six months it’s extremely, extremely high,” Bourla said.

In February, the two companies began trialling a third shot of their vaccine on fully vaccinated individuals six to 12 months after their second jab, in order to understand the effect of a booster on immunity and against new strains of the virus. 

The BioNTech/Pfizer jab is the most widely used vaccine in the US, with nearly 103m doses administered so far, according to CDC data. Fully vaccinated individuals account for 38.3m of those doses.

Earlier this week, Bourla said on Twitter that Pfizer could meet its supply target of 300m doses with the US government two weeks ahead of schedule thanks to increased production.

His CVS interview was filmed some time ago, Pfizer said, before the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused across the US because of blood clot fears.

The rollout of the single-shot jab, which is the least widely administered in the US, has been put on hold for at least a week by experts on the US Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices while they investigate six cases of rare blood clots, which led to one death.

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