Pfizer submits early results of a booster study of 10,000 people to prove it’s time to expand the booster campaign.
While all three vaccines used in the US continue to provide strong protection against severe illness and death from COVID-19, the effectiveness of the injections against milder infections may diminish over time.
The new study from Pfizer concluded that a booster could restore protection against symptomatic infection to nearly 96%, even while the extra-infectious delta variant was on the rise. Side effects were similar to those seen in the company’s first two shots.
A median of 11 months after their last Pfizer vaccination, trial participants received a third dose or a dummy injection. Researchers tracked any infections that occurred at least a week later and have so far counted five cases of symptomatic COVID-19 in booster recipients, compared with 109 cases among people who received dummy injections.
The Biden administration had originally envisioned boosters for all adults, but suffered a painful setback in September when the FDA’s scientific advisers rejected additional doses of Pfizer for everyone. The panel was not convinced that young healthy people needed another dose, especially when most of the world’s population is unvaccinated.
Still, under current policies, about 2 out of every 3 adults vaccinated are expected to qualify within the next few months — and many who don’t can still score an extra shot because most vaccine providers don’t check qualifications.
The current rules: People who initially received Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations will be eligible for a booster six months later if they are 65 years of age or older, or are at high risk for COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions or their job – or living conditions. Because the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has not proven as effective as its two-dose competitors, any J&J recipient can receive a booster at least two months later.
And regardless of the initial vaccination, the US has authorized getting a booster of the vaccine from another company, which is called mixing and matching.
If the FDA approves Pfizer boosters for all adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make recommendations for their use.
Worldwide, boosters are also a mishmash. Some countries restrict them to elderly or medically frail people, while others have few restrictions. For example, Israel has approved Pfizer boosters for everyone 12 years and older.
(Copyright 2021 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)