The chief medical officer of BioNTech said that people will probably need a third shot of its two-dose COVID-19 vaccine as immunity to the coronavirus wanes.
According to CNBC, Dr. Ozlem Tureci, the co-founder and CMO of the pharmaceutical giant that developed the COVID-19 vaccine along with Pfizer, added that she predicts people will also require annual coronavirus vaccines, as they do for protection against the seasonal flu. Tureci said this is because immunity will decrease over time and variants may emerge challenging the original versions of the vaccines.
“We see indications for this also in the induced, but also the natural immune response against SARS-CoV-2,” she said, during an interview on CNBC's The Exchange. “We see the waning of immune responses also in people who were just infected and therefore it’s also expected with the vaccines.”
Tureci’s remarks echoed the sentiments of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla who said in an interview on April 15 that people will need a third or booster shot of the vaccine within a year of getting vaccinated. While the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been found to be 91% effective in protecting against the virus and 95% effective in preventing severe illness from the disease up to six months according to clinical trials, no one knows how long immunity lasts, according to CNBC. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine also showed similar efficacy.
On Friday, the Biden administration announced it is preparing for the potential need for COVID-19 booster shots.
“Requiring additional shots in the future is obviously a foreseeable potential event,” said Andy Slavitt, senior advisor to the president’s COVID-19 response team.
According to CBS News, the Biden administration is “in discussions” to make sure it has enough booster shots available if that becomes a necessary step in containing the pandemic.
“We are in discussions right now, making sure that we can secure those vaccine for a boost or variants,” said Dr. David Kessler, chief science officer for the administration’s COVID-19 response force.
Federal health officials and drug makers have warned for months that booster shots may be required. They said that the shots will be similar to the original versions of the vaccine but will be tweaked to address the genetic code of the emerging variants, according to CBS News.
“With many vaccines, we understand that at a certain point in time we need to boost, whether that’s 9 months, 12 months. And we are preparing for that,” said Kessler, per CBS News.
All three companies that have vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. said they are developing additional shots. Pfizer announced it was launching a study for developing a third shot last February.
The pharmaceutical giant Moderna may have a booster shot that will neutralize COVID-19 variants by the fall. The company’s CEO, Stephan Bancel, told CNBC's Squawk Box: “I want to make sure there are boost vaccines available in the fall so we can protect people as we go into the next fall and winter season in the U.S.”
According to The Hill, Bancel said that Moderna would submit data on its booster shots to federal authorities to demonstrate its efficacy against COVID-19 variants.
Meanwhile Johnson & Johnson has halted its trials on a two-dose regimen to boost its one-shot vaccine because of recent reports of dangerous blood clotting side effects caused by the vaccine.
“COVID-19 is not going away. It’s not leaving the planet,” Bancel said, adding that with the variants mutating, getting a booster shot custom designed to neutralize whatever form of the coronavirus is dominant would be the logical path to take.
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