Pfizer announced Thursday that it is about to seek authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, according to NBC News.
The company said the third shot within 12 months could dramatically boost immunity, potentially warding off the latest emerging coronavirus variants.
Global studies have shown that the Pfizer and other COVID vaccines offer strong protection against the highly contagious Delta variant, which was first identified in India and has been spreading rapidly across the world.
The Delta variant and now accounts for more than 50% of cases in the United States, making it the dominant strain in the country.
Two doses of Pfizer vaccine are critical to developing high levels of antibodies against all variants of the coronavirus, but the antibodies naturally wane over time, which is why so researchers are studying whether a booster dose is required to attain strong protection against all the strains.
Dr. Mikael Dolsten, who leads the Worldwide Research, Development and Medical (WRDM) organization at Pfizer, told The Associated Press that results from early trials have suggested that the third dose boosts antibody levels by 5 to 10 times.
He said the company Pfizer plans to submit its application for the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of a third dose in August.
Dr. Dolsten said studies from Britain and Israel have shown the Pfizer vaccine can “neutralize the Delta variant very well.”
However, vaccine expert Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University said the FDA authorization would be just a first step, but it would not automatically mean Americans get offered boosters.
“The vaccines were designed to keep us out of the hospital” and continue to do so despite the more contagious delta variant, Dr. Schaffner explained. Giving another dose would be “a huge effort while we are at the moment striving to get people the first dose,” according to NBC News.
So far, only 48% of Americans are fully vaccinated, while some parts of the nation have seen a very low vaccination rate, especially where the Delta variant is dominating.
On Thursday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said this is leading to “two truths — highly immunized swaths of America are getting back to normal while hospitalizations are rising in other places.”
She said, “This rapid rise is troubling.”
Meanwhile, fully vaccinated people are concerned whether they still need to wear a mask, particularly in places where the Delta strain is surging.
Nevertheless, experts have been urging fully vaccinated people to wear a mask and maintain social distance.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday, “Let me emphasize, if you were vaccinated, you have a very high degree of protection.”
In the United States, the number of cases has been rising for weeks and the rate of hospitalizations has once again started to tick up, said Dr. Walensky.
However, the number of deaths remains down on average. And some experts believe that is because of the high vaccination rate in people aged 65 and above, who are the most vulnerable to severe COVID infection. The article was published on NBC News.