Study: Pfizer vaccine reduces COVID-19 transmission after one dose

A new U.K. study found the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine reduced transmission after just one dose. Dr. Bob Lahita joined CBSN to discuss the findings, as well as the possible need for booster shots against new variants, a new CBS News poll on attitudes about vaccination, and the process of reopening schools amid the pandemic.

Video Transcript

- A new study out of the UK found Pfizer's vaccine reduces transmission after a single dose. The report from a hospital in Cambridge showed 75% protection from COVID-19. The results also point to a decrease in the risk of asymptomatic infections among health-care workers who have been vaccinated for more than 12 days.

For more on this, let's bring in Dr. Bob Lahita. He's a professor of medicine at New York Medical College and chairman of medicine at St. Joseph's University Hospital. So Dr. Bob, how significant are these findings?

BOB LAHITA: These are very significant findings. They support what we've already thought, and that is asymptomatic transmission is decreased. And certainly transmission between people four times less when you have the vaccine.

So this is really great news. But let me say, Vlad, everybody should still wear their mask and wash their hands until we get the all clear. This is a very, very sensitive period right now with regard to this virus and the vaccines.

- So we have a new CBS News poll about just how people feel about getting a vaccine. It finds that the majority of those surveyed will get the COVID-19 vaccine when they are eligible. 50% responded that they definitely will get the shot. 24% said maybe, while 25% said they will not. For those who are on the fence, they expressed concerns about potential side effects and about the vaccine's development. What advice do you have for people who are still unsure about getting a vaccine?

BOB LAHITA: Well, Anne-Marie, I would say that they have to trust the science. I was on the elevator today in the hospital. And I asked everyone on the elevator, and there were very few of us. I said who's been vaccinated?

And two of the people in the elevator who were not physicians or nurses said we're not getting the vaccine. It's too soon. And I don't know what "too soon" means, except that when I talk to relatives and friends, they feel there hasn't been enough data to show that it works. Yet we are overwhelmed with data showing that this vaccine works, that the mRNA vaccine and now the J&J vaccine, which is the viral vector vaccine, works. They work beautifully.

So I don't know what more we could do except to educate people and tell them that they are not being injected with something that will change their lives and make their brain different. These are all the kinds of things I'm hearing. It's just really to be encouraged. We need education to make people comfortable.

- So there's been much debate, Dr. Bob, over the reopening of schools. That poll shows only one third want to see schools open completely with full schedules. Most want at least some limited reopening. A Pew Research study about students falling behind tops the list of factors why many believe schools should consider reopening. So what other factors should be considered?

BOB LAHITA: The children's social lives, the high incidence of suicides in adolescents-- these are all the things. Plus, the most important thing is that children who are not educated one-to-one will likely fall behind. And Vlad and Anne-Marie, you both know that children who come from poorer areas in this metropolitan area, for example, the Bronx, where there is very little in the line of Wi-Fi or it's inconsistent, these children with their virtual learning are falling behind. They're not learning as quickly as they would if they were in a live classroom.

And this is really-- and besides that, look at the social interaction and the way that has been restrained and taken away from these children. Children need to interact. It's part of their developmental processes. And we are denying them that.

And I think I would implore all teachers-- and I know they fall into the category where some of them probably don't want to be vaccinated-- but all teachers should be considered vaccination material. And everyone should prioritize teachers so they feel comfortable getting back to the classroom. It's very important.

- So Pfizer's CEO said that one of the things about the Pfizer vaccine is that it may not offer protection for a lifetime, right? It's not a one and done it seems. But we're still learning a lot about this virus.

And so maybe what we might be looking at is something akin to the flu vaccine, where you got to get one every year. I want to get your take on that. Does that seem likely to you?

BOB LAHITA: I don't think that this is going to be a question that's difficult. I think that endemic is what you're talking about, Anne-Marie. If the virus continues to mutate as we're seeing, we're going to probably have to get, like the flu, a vaccine every year. And that's no big deal. We all line up for the influenza shots because we know that the antigens or the foreign markers on those viruses change from year to year.

It's probably going to be the same thing with the coronavirus too, COVID-19. We're probably going to realize that going forward, once it's controlled and we're all back to our normal lives, that this is going to be endemic. And every year it's going to pop up and affect a certain number of people, which is really, by the way, guided by immunogenetics, meaning that your immune genetic chromosomal resistance or susceptibility will be manifest. So some people will get really sick from it. Others will not even know they have the infection.

That's where we're going in the future. That's what I think. And that's endemic. We call that an endemic infection. It'll be with us forever.

- See, I learned a new word. There you go. Dr. Bob Lahita, thank you very much. And you have a good weekend.

BOB LAHITA: Thanks, guys. It's good to see you.