Potential 3rd dose of Pfizer vaccine ‘strongly’ protects against delta variant, data suggest
A potential third dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine appears to offer robust protection against the highly contagious delta variant, according to preliminary data released by the company on Wednesday.
The limited data, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, suggests that an additional shot “strongly boosts” antibody levels against the new dominant strain in the U.S., the drugmaker said in its second-quarter earnings report.
Pfizer’s ongoing study into the effectiveness of a third shot found that antibody levels against delta could be greater than five-fold for people ages 18-55 who take a booster dose at least six months after the second shot. The third shot would be even more effective among people ages 65-85, potentially offering 11 times more antibodies six months after the second dose, the report states.
The New York-based company, which developed its COVID-19 vaccine with German partner BioNTech, launched the booster shot study after noticing “real-world data” suggesting immunity against COVID-19 and symptomatic disease “may wane” months after the second dose. But Pfizer said a booster shot is still part of “ongoing discussions” with regulatory agencies and there’s no estimate of when such a dose would be available to the public — if approved by the federal government.
A potential request for emergency-use authorization could come as early as next month, Pfizer said. Meanwhile, a delta-specific vaccine is also being studied, with clinical trials set to begin in August, according to the company.
The data release comes as the U.S. faces a new wave of coronavirus infections and deaths largely driven by the delta strain, which accounts for more than half of new cases nationwide.
Experts believe this latest surge could have been avoided if there weren’t so many anti-vaxxers in America. More than a half a year after COVID-19 vaccines first became available in the country, only 60% of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unvaccinated people account for more than 99% of coronavirus deaths, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has said, but recent infection trends suggest that fully vaccinated people could still carry and spread the virus even if their chances of developing severe symptoms are much lower, health officials said Tuesday as they reversed the federal governments face mask guidelines.
The CDC said that even fully vaccinated people should start wearing face masks again indoors and that parts of the country where infection rates are “high or substantial” should impose mask mandates for public indoor settings like restaurants and grocery stores regardless of customers’ vaccination status.
“We did, over these last several days now, see new science for demonstrated that those who were vaccinated, that they could, in fact, transmit, if they are one of those rare breakthrough infections,” Walensky told ABC’s “ Good Morning America” Wednesday.
Pfizer also announced Wednesday that it could have enough data by the end of September to seek emergency-use authorization to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11 years old. The company’s COVID-19 shot is currently approved for people 12 and older.
The drugmaker’s earnings report, meanwhile, shows that Pfizer had a strong second quarter, with $19 billion in revenues, reflecting an 86% operational growth. The company also revealed that it sold an impressive $7.8 billion in coronavirus shots from April to June.
“The second quarter was remarkable in a number of ways,” Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Most visibly, the speed and efficiency of our efforts with BioNTech to help vaccinate the world against COVID-19 have been unprecedented, with now more than a billion doses... having been delivered globally.”
Amid the better-than-expected results, Pfizer decided to raise its 2021 sales forecast to $33.5 billion from $26 billion.