Will you need a COVID-19 booster shot? And an annual vaccine?

covid booster shot
Photo via Joint Base San Antonio Public Affairs/Flickr (Public Domain)

Americans may need to get a COVID-19 booster shot and annual vaccines in the future, according to two leading authorities on the pandemic, White House advisor Dr. David Kessler and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. 

Kessler, the Biden Administration’s chief science officer for the pandemic response, testified before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on April 15. While Kessler said that the current array of vaccines have been effective against COVID-19, he also said that the government was “taking steps to develop [the] next generation of vaccines that are directed against these variants if in fact they can be more effective,” as the New York Times reported

More than 125 million people in the country have received at least one vaccine dose. About 78 million are considered fully vaccinated via either the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines, or via the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine currently withheld from use due to concerns about a rare blood clot side effect. 

The possibility of needing to administer a COVID booster shot isn’t new to the coronavirus conversation. In February, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that they planned to test a third shot as well as providing an update to their original vaccine. The Times article noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “has said that vaccine developers will not need to conduct lengthy trials for vaccines that have been adapted to protect against variants.” 

“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,” said Bourla in a taped statement released April 15, according to CNBC

“And again,” he added, “the variants will play a key role. It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus.” 

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna reported earlier in April 2021 that their vaccines kept recipients safe for at least six months.  

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that the vaccine protection may last even longer than six months if other immune protection, notably involving T-cells, are activated by the vaccines. Some early studies suggest that this is indeed the case. 

While Kessler said in his testimony, “We don’t know everything at this moment,” he indicated, based on what experts do know, that preparations should be made for booster shots. 

“We are studying the durability of the antibody response,” he said. “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.”

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Sources: New York Times, CNBC, Time

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