On Thursday, Pfizer announced that it is developing a coronavirus "booster'' shot to specifically target the Delta variant of COVID-19. To date, Delta has spread to nearly 100 countries. The company, along with BioTech, is set to begin clinical trials of the third vaccine shot in August, according to a report from The New York Times. If approved, the booster would be given six months after the second COVID vaccination shot.
While the two-shot Pfizer vaccine is over 90% effective against the coronavirus, one peer-reviewed study published in France found that the Delta variant may be able to "evade some of the neutralizing antibodies produced by vaccines or by a natural infection."
Pfizer, which stands to make $26 billion this year for the development of their COVID-19 vaccination, claimed in a news release that while their two-shot vaccine is efficient, the level of efficacy may decrease over time, making a booster shot necessary in order to fend off potential variants.
But many medical professionals are questioning the company's decision to go forward with a third-vaccination shot development. "There's really no indication for a third booster or a third dose of an mRNA vaccine, given the variants that we have circulating at this time," Dr. Céline Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York, told The Times in the same report. "In fact, many of us question whether you will ever need boosters." One June 2021 study found that both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines may protect a person from coronavirus for years.
The World Health Organization (WHO), like Gounder, also disagrees with Pfizer's bid for a booster. In a statement to CNN, WHO said, "We don't know whether booster vaccines will be needed to maintain protection against COVID-19 until additional data is collected." The organization added that there's "limited data available on how long the protection from current doses lasts and whether an additional booster dose would be beneficial and for whom."
Mixed messaging regarding COVID-19 vaccinations has played a role in people choosing not to get vaccinated. President Joe Biden missed his vaccination goal of having at least 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4, forcing him to double down on his vaccination messaging efforts. But the goal wasn't missed because of a lack of access to vaccinations; rather, a large sum of Americans are choosing not to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, countries experiencing COVID-surges are simultaneously experiencing vaccine shortages.
The Delta variant is said to be twice as contagious as the novel coronavirus and has caused major outbreaks in India, Britain, and Europe. Recently, COVID cases and hospitalizations have risen in the United States, though it's unclear if it's due to the Delta variant or low vaccination numbers and states re-opening. A new study released by Yale University and the Commonwealth Fund, however, found that there has been a rise in Delta variant cases among people who are not vaccinated.
"Our fight against this virus is not over. Right now, as I speak to you, millions of Americans are still unvaccinated and unprotected. And because of that, their communities are at risk, their friends are at risk, the people that they care about are at risk," Biden said on July 6. "This is an even bigger concern because of the Delta variant."