People who have received both doses of the COVID-19 may soon need a third dose in order to remain immune from the virus.
Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, predicts that a third shot of his companies vaccine may be required 8 to 12 months after receiving the second dose
For those who got their first shot in the first weeks of the rollout in December, that would mean a third may be necessary as soon as September.
‘Right now we are in the middle of the trials [of booster doses], and the data is coming as we speak,’ Bourla said.
‘I did say publicly, and the data that I see coming is supporting, the notion that likely there will be a need for a booster somewhere between eight and 12 months.
‘I believe in one, two months we will have enough data to speak about it with much higher scientific certainty.
‘It comes sooner rather than later. I believe from September to October, but this is something that the data needs to confirm.’ he continued.
Fortunately, the firm is on track to make billions of doses in the coming months: three billion in total this year, with its production topping out at six billion over the next 18 months, Bourla said.
Half of Americans have yet to receive a single shot of any COVID-19 vaccine yet with vaccination rates across the country plummeting in recent weeks – and already Bourla says the first people vaccinated could need a third shot by September
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was the first to receive Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December.
The first Americans to receive the vaccine did so on December 14.
Pfizer’s two vaccine doses are given three weeks apart meaning that the earliest Americans to receive the second dose did so in early January.
If a booster shot is needed eight months after second dose, than the first Americans to have received the vaccine will need their third shot in September to remain vaccinated for COVID-19.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, said during the same Axios conference that he also believes a third shot will ‘almost certainly’ be required within a year.
Pfizer is currently trialing two different booster shot regimens.
In early data released in May, both a third dose of the same vaccine formula and a third dose with an updated version – designed specifically to ‘neutralize’ the more infectious, vaccine-weakening variant that emerged in South Africa – showed promising results.
Both regimens triggered much higher levels of antibodies that neutralize the virus in their recipients, with the modified booster sending levels even higher.
‘Within one to two months we should have enough data to speak about it with higher scientific certainty,’ Bourla said of more conclusive trial findings.
Pfizer is also developing and testing a version of its vaccine that could be safely stored for up to six months in a ‘normal refrigerator,’ as Bourla described it.
He hinted that the early data suggests the shot could even be kept for up to a month at those temperatures, instead of the ultra-cold conditions that are currently required and make the shot difficult to transport.
Bourla said the easier to store version could be ready ‘pretty soon.’
The Moderna vaccine, the second to receive FDA EUA, may also require a third dose in the coming months as it uses similar mRNA proteins to combat the virus as the Pfizer one does.
A third vaccine to receive approval, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, only requires one shot and does not use mRNA as the other two do.
Nearly half of Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday afternoon, with over a third being fully vaccinated.
Public health officials have had trouble convincing much of the remaining half of unvaccinated Americans to receive the vaccine, as vaccination rates have slowly declined across the country since April.
Convincing Americans to receive a third dose of the vaccine could prove to be a challenge down the line, as millions of Americans have already been reported to have skipped their second dose of a two-shot vaccine.