Pfizer CEO says third Covid vaccine dose likely needed within 12 months

President Joe Biden listens to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speak at the Pfizer Kalamazoo Manufacturing Site February 19, 2021, in Portage, Michigan.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said people will “likely” need a booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine within 12 months of getting fully vaccinated. His comments were made public Thursday but were taped April 1.

He also said it’s possible people will need to get vaccinated against the virus annually.

“It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus,” he told CNBC’s Bertha Coombs during an event with CVS Health. He added the vaccines will be an important tool in the fight against highly contagious variants.

Researchers still don’t know how long protection against the virus lasts once someone has been fully vaccinated.

Pfizer said earlier this month its Covid-19 vaccine was more than 91% effective at protecting against Covid and more than 95% effective against severe disease up to six months after the second dose. Moderna’s vaccine, which uses technology similar to Pfizer’s, was also shown to be highly effective at six months.

Pfizer’s data was based on more than 12,000 vaccinated participants. However, researchers say more data is still needed to determine whether protection lasts after six months.

The comment comes after Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky told CNBC in February that people may need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 annually, just like seasonal flu shots, as variants spread

“Unfortunately, as [the virus] spreads it can also mutate,” he told CNBC on Feb. 9. “Every time it mutates, it’s almost like another click of the dial so to speak where we can see another variant, another mutation that can have an impact on its ability to fend off antibodies or to have a different kind of response not only to a therapeutic but also to a vaccine.”

Earlier Thursday, the Biden administration’s Covid response chief science officer David Kessler said Americans should expect to receive booster shots to protect against coronavirus variants.

Kessler told U.S. lawmakers that currently authorized vaccines are highly protective but noted new variants could “challenge” the effectiveness of the shots.

“We don’t know everything at this moment,” he told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Response.

“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.”

In February, Pfizer and BioNTech said they were testing a third dose of their Covid-19 vaccine to better understand the immune response against new variants of the virus.

Late last month, the National Institutes of Health started testing a new vaccine from Moderna designed to protect against a problematic variant first found in South Africa.

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