Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla believes it will probably be necessary for people to receive yet another dose of COVID-19 vaccine within a year of being fully vaccinated in order to stave off infection, according to recent taped comments that were made public on Thursday. “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, but all of that needs to be confirmed,” Bourla said during an event with CVS Health on April 1.
“It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus,” Bourla said, and also reiterated that the spread of more contagious variants will “play a key role” in determining the need for extra doses.
While it remains unclear how long protection against SARS-CoV-2 lasts once someone has been fully inoculated, Pfizer and partner BioNTech recently reported follow-up data showing their mRNA-based vaccine BNT162b2 was 91.3% effective at preventing the disease up to six months after the second dose. Similarly, Moderna’s vaccine mRNA-1273, which is based on the same technology, has also demonstrated sustained protection of over 90% at six months.
Biden official also says US should expect ‘to boost’
Bourla’s April 1 comments echo those made recently by David Kessler, chief science officer for the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response effort. Kessler told US lawmakers that authorised vaccines in the US, which so far include BNT162b2 and mRNA-1273, as well as Johnson & Johnson’s viral vector-based Ad26.COV2.S, currently in limbo over fears it may be linked to potentially fatal blood clots, are highly protective, but that new variants could “challenge” their effectiveness. As a result, he suggested that “for planning purposes, planning purposes only, I think we should expect that we may have to boost.”
In February, Pfizer and BioNTech said they had started testing a third dose of BNT162b2 to better understand its effect on immunity against COVID-19 caused by new viral strains. Moderna is developing and evaluating booster doses of its vaccine as well, and recently unveiled positive early data for its mRNA-1273.351 and mRNA-1273.211 candidates. “I hope this summer to get the vaccine authorised for a boost so that we can help people getting boosted before the fall,” CEO Stéphane Bancel recently said.
Meanwhile, Sarah Gilbert, a University of Oxford vaccinologist who helped design AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria, which has also been beset with safety issues, said a version of that vaccine aimed at tackling the B.1.351 variant “looks very much like it will be available for the autumn.”