(WXYZ) — Vaccine booster shots for COVID-19 may soon become a reality. The chief science officer for the pandemic response, Dr. David Kessler has said that the White House is looking ahead and taking steps to develop the next generation of shots.
First of all, boosters will likely be needed for two key reasons: one, the virus keeps churning out new variants, and two, protection from vaccines is thought to fade over time.
Now both Pfizer and Moderna announced that they’re working on booster shots. Pfizer actually started testing their third dose back in February. As for Johnson & Johnson, they’ve already said that their one-dose shot will likely need to be given annually.
Now while these three vaccines provide strong protection, health experts want to make sure that the next round of doses is even more effective. Unfortunately, we are seeing breakthrough cases. Roughly 5,800 fully vaccinated people have been infected. 7% were hospitalized and 74 people died.
Now the numbers overall are low compared to the millions that have been vaccinated. But to me, this underscores the need for booster shots. We need to get ahead of the ever-changing virus, especially the more contagious and more dangerous variants.
Scientists don’t know “exactly” how long protection lasts. But let's look at Pfizer and Moderna, the two vaccines that have been on the market for the longest.
Research found that antibodies were still present six months after people were fully vaccinated. Both vaccines were 95% effective at stopping severe disease during those six months. And they also protected against COVID. Pfizer’s efficacy rate was 91% and Moderna was right behind them with a 90% efficacy rate.
Now, this is great news but more research is still needed so we can learn exactly how long protection lasts and when antibodies may start to fade.
Moderna is aiming to have its booster shot ready by the fall. Pfizer recently announced that a third dose will likely be needed six to 12 months after a person is fully vaccinated. But as to when a booster will be ready, I haven’t heard of a release date from either Pfizer or from J&J.
As for your second question regarding how often we’d need them, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’d need booster shots on a yearly basis. I don’t see them being similar to the polio shot, for example, where you get the shot once and then you’re done. I think the COVID vaccines will be more like the flu shot, where you get them once a year.
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