Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says people will “likely” need to take a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine within 12 months of getting fully vaccinated and that many may need annual vaccinations against the virus.
“A likely scenario is that 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. And again, the variants will play a key role,” he said in comments that were taped April 1 but first aired Thursday. “But all of that needs to be confirmed, and again, the variants will play a key role.”
“It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus,” Bourla said, according to CNBC.
Bourla also said that coronavirus vaccines may need to be an annual event, echoing Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky, who said the same thing in February.
Earlier this month, Pfizer said its vaccine is 91.3% effective at protecting people against COVID-19, based on more than 12,000 participants in a study. Vaccinated people also have 95% protection against severe symptoms from the virus. But Pfizer said it still needs more data to know the efficacy rates for the vaccines beyond six months.
The news came after U.S. federal health agencies on Tuesday recommended a halt of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine after six women out of approximately 7 million people vaccinated developed blood clots.
Borula’s comments followed a House hearing in which a Biden official said Americans will likely need booster shots. On Thursday, COVID Response Chief Science Officer David Kessler said that while the available vaccines have proved protective, new strains could “challenge” how well the shots work.
“We don’t know everything at this moment,” he told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. “We are studying the durability of the antibody response. It seems strong but there is some waning of that and no doubt the variants challenge … they make these vaccines work harder. So I think for planning purposes, planning purposes only, I think we should expect that we may have to boost.”
In February, both Pfizer and BioNTech began testing a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine to determine effectiveness against new strains of the virus. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel also told CNBC on Wednesday that the company hopes to have a booster shot ready for the fall.
“As of April 14, about 5,800 vaccinated people out of nearly 77 million who have been fully vaccinated in the U.S. have tested positive for the coronavirus, the CDC told CNN,” The Miami Herald reported. “Some of these people became “seriously ill” and 74 died. Meanwhile, 7% (396 people) who got infected after vaccination required hospitalization.”
“Just over 40% of the infections occurred in people aged 60 or older, and most (65%) were in women and 29% were asymptomatic, meaning no symptoms were felt,” the paper reported.