As more contagious coronavirus variants continue to spread in the U.S., vaccine developers are racing to test and determine if their shots will eventually require an extra dose or booster shot to maintain protection against COVID-19.
Based on the latest data, it seems “likely” that people who received the Pfizer vaccine — the first to be authorized for emergency use in the U.S. — will need a third dose sometime after they get their two doses, according to company CEO Albert Bourla.
The comment was made during a discussion about how the Pfizer vaccine performed when put up against the coronavirus variant that was first discovered in South Africa.
“A likely scenario is there will be likely a need for a third dose somewhere between six and 12 months, and then from there, there would be an annual revaccination,” Bourla said during a CVS Health livestream posted Thursday on Facebook. “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 because they are vaccinated with high-efficacy vaccines.”
The reality for COVID-19 vaccines will likely mirror that of flu shots, which require annual vaccinations that are updated by scientists each year depending on which strain of the influenza virus is circulating.
It still remains unclear how long protection from coronavirus vaccines and natural infection lasts.
But earlier this month, the company announced that its vaccine offers 91.3% protection against COVID-19 for at least six months. That’s just as long as researchers have been studying the vaccine’s effectiveness in a late-stage trial, meaning the vaccine may last longer than that.
Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky also told CNBC in February that coronavirus vaccines may need to be an annual event.
Nearly 103 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine — which requires two doses for maximum protection — have been administered in the U.S. as of April 15, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracker.