It looks like Americans will need a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.
Bourla spoke about the case on CBS ‘”Face the Nation” on Sunday.
“Right now, as we have seen, a fourth booster is needed right now,” he said. “The protection you get from the third, it’s good enough, actually pretty good for hospitalizations and deaths.”
“It is not so good against infections, but does not last very long,” he continued.
Bourla said he has submitted data on a fourth dose to the Federal and Drug Administration.
“Many varieties come, and omicron was the first to be able to evade in a skilled way, the immune protection we provide,” he added.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and PreventionAnyone 12 years of age or older who received the two-dose Pfizer BioNTech vaccine should receive a third booster shot at least five months after the second shot.
Vaccines still provide strong protection against serious illness from any form of COVID-19. But health authorities are urging anyone eligible to receive a booster dose for their best chance of avoiding milder breakthrough infections from the highly contagious omicron mutant.
Children tend to suffer from less severe disease of COVID-19 than adults. But pediatric admissions are rising during the omicron wave – most of them unvaccinated.
Conversations about a fourth dose of COVID-19 have been part of the larger health debate in recent months.
In December, the country’s best expert in infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Faucisaid it was too early to determine if or when Americans will need another dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I think it’s too early to talk about a fourth dose,” Fauci said Michael Wallace and Steve Scott from WCBS Newsradio 880.
“One of the things we are going to follow very closely is what the shelf life of the protection is after the third dose of an mRNA vaccine,” he continued. “If the protection is much more durable than two-dose, non-boosted group, then we can go a significant period without requiring a fourth dose.”
Health experts expect protection against vaccines to decline. The US booster campaign was based on evidence that showed last year that vaccine protection was fading six months after people got their first vaccinations.
An early look at the effectiveness of COVID-19 booster shots during the recent omicron wave in the United States indicated a decline in effectiveness, although the shots still provided strong protection against serious illness.
The report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month, is seen as an early and limited look at the durability of booster protection during the omicron rise, which exploded in December and January but has faded in recent weeks.
The researchers looked at patient visits to hospitals and acute care centers in 10 states. They assessed how well Pfizer or Moderna booster shots prevented COVID-related visits to emergency rooms and emergency centers, and how well the vaccines prevented hospitalizations.
About 10% of the people in the study were boosted. Vaccine efficacy was higher in individuals who had received boosters than in individuals who had received only the original series of shots.
However, researchers also found that in the time when the omicron variant has been prevalent, the vaccine effectiveness against outpatient visits was 87% in people who had received a booster two months earlier, but to 66% four months later. Vaccine efficacy against hospitalization decreased from 91% after two months to 78% in the fourth month.
However, these results were based only on a small number of patients – fewer than 200 – who had been boosted four months earlier at the time of the omicron wave. And it is unclear if these people had been given boosters early for medical reasons that may have made them more vulnerable to serious illness.
Two years into the pandemic, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have dropped dramatically over the past many weeks.
About 65% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and about 29% are both vaccinated and boosted. The cases have been declining for almost two months, with the daily average in the US falling by about 40% in the last week alone. Hospital admissions have also fallen, almost 30%. Mask mandates are disappearing – even federal health officials have stopped wearing them – and President Joe Biden has said it’s time for people to return to offices and many aspects of pre-pandemic life.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.