Proactive or premature: Medical professionals react to the dueling Pfizer and CDC statements regarding booster shots

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — Earlier this week, new vaccine data from the Israeli Health Ministry was released, saying Pfizer vaccine efficacy wanes after six to 12 months. The data suggest a booster shot may be necessary for the future. Pfizer announced it would seek emergency use authorization from the FDA for a third shot to boost immunity.

Now, healthcare professionals are reacting with mixed opinions. Some think it is very premature, while others commend the company for being proactive.

“The data doesn’t say that it’s time for a booster,” Dr. John Moore, professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, said.

While there is no concrete data saying booster shots should be administered, some doctors say Pfizer is thinking ahead and trying to mobilize resources before efficacy decreases.

“I find this very ambitious and wanting to get ahead of the problem,” Dr. Angela Branche, M.D., assistant professor at the University of Rochester (UR), School of Medicine and co-director of the NIH-funded UR Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit, added.

The medical community is trying to analyze this new data. In a press release, Pfizer said the research indicates boosters are needed.

“As seen in real-world data released from the Israel Ministry of Health, vaccine efficacy in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease has declined six months post-vaccination, although efficacy in preventing serious illnesses remains high. Additionally, during this period the Delta variant is becoming the dominant variant in Israel as well as many other countries. These findings are consistent with an ongoing analysis from the Companies’ Phase 3 study. That is why we have said, and we continue to believe that it is likely, based on the totality of the data we have to date, that a third dose may be needed within 6 to 12 months after full vaccination.”

Pfizer BioNTech

“We’re not sure that the numbers from Pfizer are comparable numbers with one we previously understood [from U.S. trials],” Dr. Moore continued.

Dr. Branche says Pfizer is simply reacting to early detection that an extra dose may be needed to sustain or increase immunity to COVID-19.

“There are early signals that it may be necessary to require a booster. [Pfizer is saying] here are the early signals. It’s concerning. We may need to mobilize to be prepared to boost people if we have to,” Dr. Branche added.

The CDC and FDA issued a joint statement Thursday adding that fully vaccinated Americans are protected from severe disease and hospitalization. They believe booster shots are not needed right now, but they are continuing to monitor the situation closely.

“Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. FDA, CDC, and NIH are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary. This process takes into account laboratory data, clinical trial data, and cohort data – which can include data from specific pharmaceutical companies, but does not rely on those data exclusively. We continue to review any new data as it becomes available and will keep the public informed. We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention & Food and Drug Administration

“No one is arguing that a booster will never be necessary. It might be,” Dr. Moore continued.

There is not enough conclusive evidence to say whether or not an additional dose will be needed for any vaccine. If needed, the administration process could be very challenging for healthcare providers.

“We’re having enough trouble getting the first dose of Pfizer or any of the vaccines into arms,” Darlene Smith, Steuben County Public Health Director, added.

This week’s vaccine news comes as the global death toll from COVID-19 eclipsed 4 million Wednesday as the crisis increasingly becomes a race between the vaccine and the highly contagious delta variant. With the advent of the vaccine, deaths per day have plummeted to around 7,900, after topping out at over 18,000 a day in January.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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