Pfizer Announces It's Developing a COVID Vaccine Booster to Fight Against Delta Variant

The pharmaceutical company plans to move forward with clinical trials in August to fight against the variant which is the dominant strain in the United Kingdom and accounts for 51 percent of new U.S. cases

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A person getting vaccinated. Photo: Getty

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech announced on Thursday that the companies are developing a specially formulated COVID-19 booster shot to fight against the highly contagious Delta variant.

In a statement, the companies said the third dose of their existing COVID-19 would be helpful against the strain also known as B.1.617.2, however, Pfizer and BioNTech "are remaining vigilant and are developing an updated version of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that targets the full spike protein of the Delta variant."

"The first batch of the mRNA for the trial has already been manufactured at BioNTech's facility in Mainz, Germany," the companies said, adding it is anticipated that "the clinical studies to begin in August, subject to regulatory approvals."

Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccination
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Justin Tallis - Pool / Getty

The companies estimate that a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be needed 12 months after the first two doses.

News of the Delta variant's dominance comes days after news that the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine can provide immunity against COVID-19 for at least eight months, as well as protection against "other highly prevalent SARS-CoV-2 viral variants" of the virus.

The company announced on Thursday that during its trial, the vaccine generated a "strong neutralizing antibody response" to the widely spreading Delta variant, with 85 percent effectiveness.

The Johnson & Johnson study follows the lead of Moderna and Pfizer also announced that their vaccines are extremely effective against the Delta variant, preventing illness 90 percent of the time and hospitalization or severe illness 94 percent of the time.

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The highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 that spread rapidly in India is now in the U.S., worrying health experts with large portions of the country still unvaccinated.

The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control estimated 51.7 percent of all new COVID-19 cases are the Delta variant.

The strain, which was first identified in India, has also taken hold in the U.K. and represents 90 percent of the country's cases, NBC News reported on Wednesday.

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A pregnant woman receiving vaccination. Getty Images

"The Delta variant is spreading rapidly throughout the country. This week, the Delta variant is estimated to be the most prevalent variant in the United States, representing over 50 percent of sequenced samples across the country, up from 26 percent from the week ending June 19," Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control, said during a White House COVID-19 briefing on Thursday. "And in some parts of the country, the percentage is even higher. For example, in parts of the Midwest and Upper Mountain states, CDC's early sequence data suggests the Delta variant accounts for approximately 80 percent of cases."

She added, "Turning the corner on this pandemic, getting back to normal, and stopping the Delta variant requires all of us to do our part and to get vaccinated."

As of Thursday morning, nearly 183 million Americans (55.2 percent of the total population) have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 158 million (47.7 percent) are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

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