By Roxy Manson
Pfizer, Moderna and other Covid-19 vaccines have been proven to be effective for at least six months — since the first shots were administered late last year. Based on comments from a few pharmaceutical executives and some public health officials, however, many people are left wondering, will I need a booster shot?
“No, I don’t think so,” said University of California-San Francisco’s Dr. Monica Gandhi. “We may not need booster shots.”
Dr. Gandhi is an infectious disease physician who has been studying preliminary Pfizer data released this month. She says no breakthrough infections have been reported since the initial vaccine trial started nearly ten months ago. “Anyone who received the vaccine during the trials actually received them in July 2020,” she said. “We are not seeing breakthrough infections, even in the setting of surges.”
According to the Pfizer data, of the 44,000 people vaccinated, there was high efficacy rates protecting against severe disease at six months. “This was even including people in South Africa exposed to the B.1.351 variant,” Gandhi said.
Aside from the promising trial data, Gandhi says all three Covid-19 vaccines are also producing a high level of T cell immunity, which is effectively fighting variants. “I’m very hopeful that we won’t need these booster vaccines, but if we do, the technology will make this very easy for us to get them in the future if we have outbreaks pop up,” she said.
While Gandhi argues booster shots may not be necessary, experts and public health officials have reported it may still be recommended for added protection.
Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla said publicly last week there will ‘likely’ be a need for a third dose somewhere between six and 12 months in additional to an annual COVID shot like the flu shot.
“A lot of work is ahead,” said UCSF’s Chief Pharmacy Executive, Desi Kotis.
Although Gandhi is hesitant to question the motives of drug company executives, others are not. “There’s no doubt that vaccine makers are looking to extend their profits and playing on the fears of the public is one way to do it,” says Dr. Helen Morrill, a professor of health ethics at the University of Toronto. “To put it in rather crude terms, there is an incentive to keep the Covid gravy train running and I’m concerned that we’ll hear more and more scare stories about the risks of not getting a third shot.”