Both Pfizer and Moderna have started working on booster shots aimed at maintaining the vaccine’s protection against COVID-19 and the new variants

By Julie Mazziotta
April 15, 2021 04:18 PM
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Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccination
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
| Credit: Justin Tallis - Pool / Getty

People will "likely" need to get a third dose of Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine in the next 12 months, the company's CEO Albert Bourla said, for a boost of protection against the virus.

"A likely scenario is there will be likely a need for a third dose somewhere between six and 12 months and then from there there would be an annual revaccination," Bourla said during an event with CVS Health that was recorded April 1 but released Thursday, CNBC reported.

Pfizer is currently studying the antibody protection that the vaccine creates to see how long it lasts. So far, the company's studies have shown that the vaccine maintains a high level of protection — about 91% efficacy — for at least six months. But with the new, more contagious variants now dominating COVID-19 cases in the U.S., and concerns that the vaccine's effectiveness will lessen in the next few months, both Pfizer and Moderna had already announced that they were working on booster shots in the hopes of having them ready for the fall.

"It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus," Bourla said.

Bourla also said that people may need to get a COVID-19 vaccination annually, much like the yearly flu vaccine.

Pfizer announced on April 1 that the company has continued to monitor 12,000 patients who received its vaccine during clinical trials last summer, and found that the vaccine is still highly effective and prevents COVID-19 illness 91.3% of the time. It also was effective against the more contagious B.1.351 strain that first emerged in South Africa, and of the six people who contracted a case of COVID-19 with the strain, none had received the Pfizer vaccine, only a placebo.

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"It is an important step to further confirm the strong efficacy and good safety data we have seen so far," Ugur Sahin, CEO and cofounder of BioNTech, said in a statement. "These data also provide the first clinical results that a vaccine can effectively protect against currently circulating variants, a critical factor to reach herd immunity and end this pandemic for the global population."

Moderna has also found that its vaccine maintained its effectiveness after six months. The company said Tuesday that the vaccine, which was found to be 95% effective in initial trials, was 94.5% effective at the six-month mark.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, had said Monday that a booster shot may be necessary.

"We know for sure it's effective for six months and highly likely that it will be effective for considerably longer period of time," he said during an interview with MSNBC's Medhi Hasan.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases added that experts will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the vaccines "to determine when that level of efficacy or protection diminishes."

And "if it turns out [to last] a year or a year and a half, we very well may need to get booster shots to keep up the level of protection," he said.