Pfizer plans next month to seek emergency approval for a third dose of its coronavirus vaccine. It has been developing a booster treatment as a way to strengthen antibodies which fade over time and guard against new, highly contagious versions of Covid like the so-called “Delta variant.”
Pending government approval, clinical studies could begin as soon as August, the company, along with its partner BioNtech, announced on Thursday.
Covid vaccines remain highly effective in stopping severe illness and death in areas where people have access to the treatment, but recent findings in countries like Israel suggest that efficacy at stopping the spread of Covid overall and preventing lower-level symptoms wanes over time.
“As seen in real world evidence released from the Israel Ministry of Health, vaccine efficacy has declined six months post-vaccination, at the same time that the Delta variant is becoming the dominant variant in the country,” the companies said in a statement. “That is why we have said, and we continue to believe that it is likely, based on the totality of the data we have to date, that a third dose may be needed within 6 to 12 months after full vaccination,” they added.
According to the World Health Organization, the Delta variant is about 55 per cent more transmissible than the first round of Covid which swept through the United States. It is now the dominant form of coronavirus in the country, and poses a special risk in the 1,000 or so counties where vaccination rates are still below 30 per cent. Less than half of US adults are fully vaccinated, and that lack of coverage is even greater in regions like the South and the Midwest.
As a result of that lagging vaccination rate, public health officials may not immediately launch into rolling out a third shot when many haven’t gotten their first, Dr William Schaffner of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center told the Associated Press.
“The vaccines were designed to keep us out of the hospital,” he said, arguing that adding a third shot could amount to “a huge effort while we are at the moment striving to get people the first dose.”
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