People who have been fully inoculated against coronavirus with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines may need a booster shot within a year in order to maintain immunity against coronavirus, Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said Tuesday, though other experts say a booster may be necessary as soon as six months after.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said last week people will likely need a booster shot within six to 12 months after their second dose of the vaccine his company developed with BioNTech, when early studies indicate protection from the vaccine appears to wane.
Last month, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said it takes about eight months after the second vaccine for the body to show a decline in coronavirus antibody responses, which would be the ideal time for “a boost.”
Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said in February people may need to prepare to have a yearly coronavirus vaccine in order to fight off new mutations, similar to an annual flu shot.
Other experts say it’s too soon to say if the general public will need third doses: former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told Reuters last week “it’s completely inappropriate” to say annual boosters will likely prove necessary for everyone, because “we have no idea what the likelihood of that is.”
The final decision of if and when booster shots should be administered “will best be made by public health experts, rather than CEOs of a company who may benefit financially,” Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, told Reuters.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease official, said last month experts will have a better idea of the necessity of a third dose by late summer or early fall based on the number of breakthrough infections, or vaccinated people who still contract coronavirus.
“It would be nice if it’ll turn out that it’ll be a year before anyone might need a booster,” Marks said Tuesday. “But we still don’t know … this is just something we’re gonna have to figure out as we go.”
What We Don’t Know
If additional vaccine doses would be available free of charge or how they would be distributed. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week U.S. officials are “planning for it just in case.”
Almost 48% of Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, and more than one in three are fully vaccinated against coronavirus according to CDC data. Everyone aged 12 and older in the U.S. is eligible to be vaccinated after the FDA expanded eligibility to adolescents last week.