RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- Pfizer announced it would meet with U.S. health officials to talk about a potential booster for its COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. The company said the booster would aim for the more contagious Delta variant.
The need for a booster COVID-19 vaccine is still up in the air. The CDC and FDA have both said there is no evidence showing there is a need for a third dose. Without solid data to support it yet, this may be more of a business strategy.
“Why not get authorization from the FDA on the books so you can beat out your competitor- Moderna who’s also thinking of the same thing and vying for the same dollars,” said UNC School of Medicine infectious disease expert, Dr. David Wohl.
Wohl suspects if anyone needs a booster in the long likely is immunocompromised who may benefit from another dose. However, he said research needs to show a third dose would increase protection for enough people to make a booster worth it.
“What we do need are studies that show that boosting them, makes a difference. We don’t have that right now,” said Wohl.
The third dose would target the Delta variant. Pfizer points to data from other countries showing decreased protection against symptomatic infection from that mutation.
Studies showed protection in Britain dropped to 88-percent, it dropped to 79-percent in a Scotland study and 87-percent in a Canadian study.
However, Wohl said talk of potential boosters should not be the priority right now. With only half of the state fully vaccinated, he said we need to focus on making sure more people get the authorized two doses first.
This booster may protect better against the Delta variant but other mutations may develop in the future so has this effort come too late?
“It’s good news and bad news. The good news is the vaccines we’re using- the mRNA vaccines- can be tweaked pretty quickly,” Wohl said.
As long as people are hesitant to get vaccinated, new variants will develop. Wohl said updating vaccines to address future mutations may turn into a game of whack-a-mole.
The continuous flood of new information from scientists and pharmaceutical companies may be confusing but it’s how science works.
“There’s no crystal balls in science. No one has all the answers. We learn,” said Wohl.
Even a year into the pandemic, there is still a lot to learn about the virus, its impact on the body, and vaccines’ future.