Pfizer, US Officials to Discuss COVID-19 Vaccine Booster

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Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Pfizer and top U.S. health officials will meet today to discuss FDA authorization of a third vaccine dose that would act as a booster shot against COVID-19.

The company told The Associated Press last week that early data from a booster study showed that antibody levels jumped by 5 to 10 times after a third dose, as compared with the second dose months before, which could provide evidence that boosters will be needed within 12 months.

Public health officials debated the idea last week, arguing that it’s too soon to tell whether another shot will be needed, but that it could be possible. The CDC and the FDA issued a joint statement that said those who have been fully vaccinated “do not need a booster shot at this time.”

“FDA, CDC, and [National Institutes of Health] are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary,” they wrote. “We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.”

On Sunday, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said clinical studies haven’t yet proved a need for a booster shot.

“Right now, given the data and the information we have, we do not need to give people a third shot,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union . He shared similar messages during appearances on ABC News’ This Week and CBS News’ Face the Nation .

At the same time, Fauci said, it’s “entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that booster shots will be necessary. In the coming months, studies may show that a third dose will be needed based on things like age and medical conditions.

“There are studies being done, ongoing as we speak, about looking at the feasibility about if and when we should be boosting people,” he said.

For now, public health officials are focused on getting vaccines to those who haven’t yet taken one. About 55.5% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Sunday, and 48% of the population is fully vaccinated.

In areas with low vaccination rates, such as parts of Missouri and Arkansas, COVID-19 cases are increasing as the contagious Delta variant spreads.

“We are in a very difficult position,” Fauci said on Face the Nation, encouraging those who haven’t yet gotten a shot to protect themselves and their communities.

“We have more vaccines in this country than we know what to do with — everybody and anybody can get vaccinated,” he said. “And we have people throughout the world who would do anything to get vaccinated because they appreciate the importance of safeguarding their health.”

Also on Sunday, Israel said it would begin offering third doses of the Pfizer vaccine to adults with weak immune systems, according to Reuters. As the Delta variant spreads in the country, health officials are still deciding whether to make a booster shot available to the general public.

“We are examining this issue, and we still do not have a final answer,” Nitzan Horowitz, the health minister for Israel, said on public radio.

“In any case, we are administering as of now a third shot to people suffering from immunodeficiency,” he said.

Sources:

The Associated Press: “Pfizer to discuss COVID-19 vaccine booster with US officials.”

Department of Health and Human Services: “Joint CDC and FDA Statement on Vaccine Boosters.”

CNN: “State of the Union, July 11, 2021.”

ABC News: “‘This Week’ Transcript 7-11-21: Dr. Anthony Fauci, Gov. Asa Hutchinson & Eric Adams.”

CBS News: “Full transcript of ‘Face the Nation’ on July 11, 2021.”

CDC: “COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States.”

Reuters: “Israel offers third shot of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to adults at risk.”

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