Pfizer CEO predicts ‘we will able to come back to normal life’ within a year even with new variants of the coronavirus

pfizer booster shot
A health worker administers a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Clalit Health Services in the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina, in the Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, on August 29, 2021.

  • The CEO of Pfizer said Sunday the COVID-19 pandemic would likely subside by next year, allowing for a return to normal life.
  • He said the COVID-19 virus would likely continue to evolve, requiring annual vaccinations.
  • His comments are similar to those made last week by Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Sunday he believed life would return to normal within the next year even though new variants of COVID-19 are likely to continue to emerge around the globe.

“I agree that within a year I think we will be able to come back to normal life,” Bourla said during an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week.” “I don’t think this means that variants will not continue coming, and I don’t think this means we should be able to live our lives without having vaccinations.”

Bourla’s comments echo remarks made last week by Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, who predicted the pandemic would end “in a year.”

“If you look at the industry-wide expansion of production capacities over the past six months, enough doses should be available by the middle of next year so that everyone on this Earth can be vaccinated,” Bancel told Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Reuters reported Thursday.

Bancel said people who do not get vaccinated would “immunize themselves naturally” because the Delta variant is highly transmissible.

“In this way we will end up in a situation similar to that of the flu. You can either get vaccinated and have a good winter. Or you don’t do it and risk getting sick and possibly even ending up in hospital,” he added.

Bourla on Sunday told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos he believed COVID-19 would likely require annual vaccination to tackle variants that emerge across the world.

“The most likely scenario for me – because the virus is spread all over the world – is we will continue seeing new variants that are coming out, and also we will have vaccines that will last at least a year,” he said. “I think the most likely scenario is annual vaccinations. But we don’t know really. We need to wait and see the data.”

The comments come as vaccine booster shots become available to millions of eligible Americans.

The US Food and Drug Administration last week authorized Pfizer boosters for people 65 years and older and others at high risk of severe COVID-19, including people who are more likely to get sick because of their health status, and others at high risk of exposure to the virus due to where they live and work, as Insider’s Aria Bendix and Andrea Michelson reported.

The development came the same week that deaths from the coronavirus in the US surpassed that of the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic.

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How, where, and when to get your COVID-19 booster shot

vaccine los angeles
Jamilette Mota, 17, receives her Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Josselyn Solano at a mobile clinic in Los Angeles, on April 20.

Booster shots are here – for some Americans, at least.

US regulators published their recommendations this week as to who should get a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine. But there were slight differences between the guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The FDA authorized Pfizer boosters on Wednesday for people 65 years and older and others at high risk of severe COVID-19. That includes people who are more likely to get sick because of their health status, as well those who are at high risk of exposure to the virus due to where they live and work – such as healthcare workers, teachers and daycare staff, grocery store workers, and residents of homeless shelters or prisons.

Then on Thursday, the CDC recommended Pfizer boosters for people 65 years and older, nursing home residents, and people ages 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions. The agency said younger adults with underlying medical conditions or those at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure because of their job or living arrangement could consider a booster.

Here’s a rundown of how, where, and when to get a third shot based on your eligibility.

Who should get a booster shot, and when?

The FDA authorized a third dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine last month for people with severely weakened immune systems – including people receiving cancer treatment, those with advanced HIV infections, or organ transplant patients. Third doses are necessary for this group, since immunocompromised people don’t develop the same protection from two shots as others do.

Scientists also agree that elderly people – those 65 years and older – require boosters, since their immunity from vaccines tends to wane more quickly than average.

But there’s less consensus when it comes to the rest of the population.

An independent group of advisors to the CDC out forth its own guidance on Thursday, which recommend Pfizer boosters for nursing home residents, people 65 and older, and all adults with underlying medical conditions. But they do not suggest the shot for healthcare workers, teachers, or prisoners.

Scientists do agree, however, that nobody needs a booster until at least six months after their second dose.

Pfizer’s data suggests that its vaccine is highly protective against symptomatic COVID-19 for at least six months. The third dose may help maintain that protection when given 6 to 12 months out.

How do you book a booster appointment?

Roughly 80,000 vaccination locations will offer boosters across the country, according to Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. For the most part, the shots are available at the same locations where people got their first and second doses – including pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens. Many states have closed their large clinics and drive-through sites, though.

Just like the first vaccines, booster shots are free.

“It will be easy. Just show your vaccination card, and you’ll get a booster,” President Joe Biden said last month. “No other ID, no insurance, no state residency requirement.”

Both Walgreens and CVS are asking people to confirm that they meet either the FDA or CDC’s eligibility requirements, though the pharmacies don’t require specific documentation.

CVS said boosters will be available at 6,000 of its pharmacies and clinics starting Friday.

Walgreens said people can book appointments over the phone or online starting Saturday. Eligible people can either bring their COVID-19 vaccine card to the appointment or provide evidence of their last two vaccine doses and receive a new card. (People who lost their cards can typically retrieve their record by contacting their state health department or the site where they got vaccinated.)

What about those who got J&J?

People who got the Johnson & Johnson shot will likely need second shots in the future, even though the company has said its jab offers “strong” protection against Delta and other variants of concern.

This week, J&J announced that a second dose of its vaccine led to 94% protection against moderate to severe COVID-19.

Some health experts who got the J&J shot, however, have “topped off” with a shot from Moderna or Pfizer, even though that approach goes against the recommendations.

But do we really need boosters?

For most people, there’s no need to run to the pharmacy for a booster right away. Vaccines are still highly effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

“The real problem in this country is not that we need to boost the vaccinated – it’s that we need to vaccinate the un-vaccinated,” Dr. Paul Offit, who sits on the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, told Insider. “That’s the problem. Until we do that, we’re going to suffer in this country.”

The World Health Organization also opposes any move to offer boosters to the general public while so many people in the world remain unvaccinated.

“It’s too soon, really. There isn’t enough evidence from enough countries around the world to suggest that the vaccines are indeed failing,” Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, said at a Physicians for Human Rights panel on Monday.

“The main goal of the vaccines is to prevent severe disease and death,” she added. “The main goal is not to prevent infection.”

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4 people who got COVID-19 booster shots share what it felt like to get an extra vaccine dose

healthcare worker in mask, smiling, getting booster shot.
A healthcare worker receives a booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine in Bangkok on August 9, 2021.

  • The US has authorized third doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to adults over 65, and others at high risk of developing severe disease.
  • Already, more than two million Americans know what it feels like to get a booster shot.
  • The side effects, they say, are much like after a second shot, with some arm pain and fatigue.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The federal government is starting to recommend third shots of COVID-19 vaccines to large numbers of vulnerable people living in the US.

Already in August, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended, a boost for all immunocompromised people who were vaccinated at least a month prior.

This week, the FDA expanded its booster authorization to a much broader population, and the CDC is now recommending certain adults who’ve had Pfizer’s vaccine get a third shot at least six months after their initial one.

But the truth is that many people have already taken it upon themselves to get boosted, whether they are in priority groups or not. They say their side effects are, by and large, a lot like the ones they had after a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.

Most are sticking to the same brand, and reporting milder side effects

More than 2.3 million Americans have gotten booster doses already, according to CDC data, a number that most certainly includes people who are not immunocompromised.

“It’s not happening randomly,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, told a group of journalists recently, explaining how he had recently been at a dinner where roughly a quarter of attendees had boosted themselves. “It is wealthier people, it is more highly educated people who are going out and getting boosters on their own.”

More than 21,900 people have reported their third dose side effects using the CDC’s v-safe text messaging system.

Nearly all of them (more than 98%) remain loyal to the same brand when they go back for a third shot (Pfizer recipients boost with Pfizer, Moderna recipients with Moderna.) Some are boosting their single shot of J&J with a second shot of the same, while others are topping it up with a jab of mRNA vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna.

In general, reactions to third doses of the two mRNA vaccines appear quite similar to second doses, though third dose side effects may be slightly milder.

‘Out of commission for a day’

Steve Walz, head of international relations at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, spoke to Insider after his third dose of Pfizer. “The only thing that bothered me was I was extremely tired for 24 hours,” Walz, who is in his 60s, said. “That’s it. I didn’t have any of those shakes, fevers, or all the other reactions that most people have. I guess I’m fortunate.”

Younger adults told Insider similar stories.

Alec Lynch, who’s 21 and on medication that affects his immune system, said he was “just out of commission for a day,” laying in bed after he got a third shot of Pfizer in August. Lynch described feeling “tired and achy” and “kind of gross” but without a fever.

32-year-old Andy Sparks who boosted his single shot J&J vaccine with a shot of Moderna said his arm hurt “way worse” after the Moderna boost than with the initial J&J.

Katie Bent, 30, boosted her J&J with Pfizer and said after that second shot she was so tired she slept for 15 hours, whereas with the J&J she was just “a little tired and sore afterwards.”

(She cautioned, however, that she’s generally “a fairly sleep deprived person,” so it’s unclear whether that fatigue was all a result of the shot.)

She said it felt like “when you’ve been sick for a while, and then the fever breaks and you know that you’re on the mend.”

Arm pain and swelling

By far the most common side effect felt after a third COVID-19 dose is arm pain at the injection site.

Fatigue and other muscle aches (myalgia) are also common in the week after a third mRNA injection.

Data that Pfizer presented to the CDC this week also suggested that more people may have swollen lymph nodes after a third dose of the vaccine than with a first or second, but that is temporary, and only happened about 5% of the time in their trials.

graph of third dose side effects showing arm pain as the most common
More than 21,000 people who’ve received a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine shared their side effects with the CDC.

Health officials are not sold on the widespread need for boosters yet

The new CDC recommendations of who should get a Pfizer booster shot include people who:

  • are 65 or older
  • live in a long term care facility (like a nursing home)
  • are 50-64 years old with underlying medical conditions that put them at greater risk of severe COVID-19

The CDC is also suggesting that other adults who’ve had Pfizer, if they wish, may receive a third shot at least six months after their initial vaccination course if they:

  • are 18-49 years old with underlying medical conditions
  • or are 18-49 years old and are at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission “because of occupational or institutional setting” (e.g. healthcare workers, prisoners, and other frontline workers)

The CDC stresses adults under the age of 50 should make their decision about a booster “based on their individual benefits and risks.”

Independent advisors to the CDC were torn about recommending booster shots to younger adults who are at higher risk of catching COVID-19 at work, like healthcare workers, frontline workers, and prison guards.

They said that giving out boosters isn’t going to end the pandemic. Getting more people vaccinated would help more.

The areas of the country that are hardest hit by the virus, with more hospitalizations and more deaths, are the places where large numbers of people remain without a single shot.

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Leaders at Moderna and AstraZeneca, are offering new, rosy predictions about the pandemic’s end

vermont covid-19 vaccine
An employee at the Vermont Creamery receives a COVID-19 vaccine from the National Guard at a pop-up stand in Websterville, Vermont, on June 29, 2021.

  • Vaccine makers have recently said they think the pandemic will finally end in 2022.
  • A lead scientist behind AstraZeneca’s vaccine predicted that the coronavirus will likely become similar to the common cold.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Top brass at Moderna and AstraZeneca have recently offered rosy predictions about what’s in store for the coronavirus.

“If you look at the industry-wide expansion of production capacities over the past six months, enough doses should be available by the middle of next year so that everyone on this Earth can be vaccinated,” Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, told the Swiss newspaper the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Reuters reported Thursday.

“Those who do not get vaccinated will immunize themselves naturally, because the Delta variant is so contagious,” Bancel added. “In this way we will end up in a situation similar to that of the flu. You can either get vaccinated and have a good winter. Or you don’t do it and risk getting sick and possibly even ending up in hospital.”

In response to a question about when the pandemic would end, Bancel replied, “As of today, in a year, I assume.”

Sarah Gilbert, the scientist who led the team that developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, echoed similar sentiments during a Royal Society of Medicine webinar on Wednesday.

“We already live with four different human coronaviruses that we don’t really ever think about very much, and eventually Sars-CoV-2 will become one of those,” Gilbert said, according to the Evening Standard.

Common human coronaviruses, like the one that causes the common cold, typically cause mild-to-moderate upper respiratory illness.

Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO, also commented on the the future of global vaccine distribution this week.

“We will see a billion doses by the end of this year, not in the near future, by the end of this year,” he said in interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday. “And we will do at least 1 billion doses next year, and I think the facts are speaking for themselves.”

The comments come at a moment when more and more industry and public-health leaders in the US are issuing hopeful messages, despite the recent Delta surge. Though of course, plenty of predictions about the pandemic have been proven wrong before.

What is ‘returning to normal’ anyway?

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Insider that Bancel’s projection seems mostly on target.

“This acute phase of the pandemic will likely wind down within 2022,” Adalja said. “As more people have natural immunity and as more people are vaccinated, that’s going to cause the public-health emergency to no longer be in effect for the world – when the virus is unable to cause as much serious disease, hospitalization and death as it has been able to in this phase of the pandemic.”

church covid vaccines
Bible-Based Fellowship Church, the Pasco County Health Department, and the Army National Guard teamed up to administer the Moderna vaccine in Tampa, Florida, on February 13, 2021.

John Brownstein, an epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, similarly said he sees “reason to be optimistic that we may be out of the pandemic.”

The dark horse, Brownstein told Insider, is the possibility of a new variant that could evade our vaccines.

“We’ve been surprised by this pandemic over and over again,” he said, adding, “to put any timeframe on it would likely mean that you’d be 100% wrong.”

To that point, Bancel’s predictions about when the pandemic would end have been wrong in the past. In November, Bancel told Insider that he envisioned a return to normal in summer 2021.

Bourla, too, gave a prediction in June – before the spike in infections tied to Delta – that will most likely turn out to be too optimistic. Bourla told CNBC that he thought developed countries could return to normal life by the end of 2021, and the rest of the world in 2022.

Part of the difficulty, though, is that there’s no standard definition of what “returning to normal” means. Many people in the US – including this reporter – envision it as a return to everyday life close to the way Americans were living it in 2019. No need to work from home. Relatively low risk at large gatherings like concerts and weddings. No mask requirements.

Bancel’s definition may be less rigid.

“Is it a return to baseline?” Brownstein asked. “Or is it a new baseline?”

A new normal may be a more realistic target.

“I think that what you’ll see is the normalization of COVID-19 and how people learn to cope with it,” Adalja said. “COVID’s not going anywhere and people are learning to adjust.”

Adalja already has.

“I’m back to my normal life, except I take care of COVID patients,” he said.

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CDC advisory panel voted against giving workers with a higher risk of getting COVID-19 a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot, after FDA authorized it

Vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use in some groups on Wednesday, and lots of American workers just became eligible.

The FDA authorized the boosters for people 65 and older and people 18 to 64 who are at a high risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19. It also approved the shots for people 18 to 64 who are at a higher risk of getting COVID-19 while at work. That could include healthcare workers, teachers, and grocery store employees, among other occupations.

But on Thursday, an independent group of medical advisors to the Centers for Disease Control split with the FDA and voted 9-6 against recommending booster doses for adults who are at greater risk of COVID exposure in their work, including healthcare workers and teachers.

The CDC panel did vote to recommend boosters to older adults who had their first two shots at least six months ago, as well as to adults with underlying medical conditions. While the vote for older adults was unanimous, the panel split 13-2 on recommending boosters to 50-64 year-olds with underlying conditions, and 9-6 on recommending extra shots for 18-49 year-olds.

Unlike the initial vaccine rollout, the US is less likely to face a supply issue where those who are eligible have a difficult time getting a shot.

The US is still urging Americans to get their first vaccine dose. As of Wednesday, 75% of eligible Americans 12 years of age or older had received one vaccine dose according to the CDC, while 64% were fully vaccinated.

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Workers with a higher risk of getting COVID-19, like healthcare workers and teachers, are eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot

Vaccine
  • The FDA authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for some groups on Wednesday.
  • People 18 to 64 who have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 at work are among the eligible groups.
  • That could include healthcare workers, teachers, and grocery store employees, among others.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for use in some groups on Wednesday, and lots of American workers just became eligible.

The FDA authorized the boosters for people 65 and older and people 18 to 64 who are at a high risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19. It also approved the shots for people 18 to 64 who are at a higher risk of getting COVID-19 while at work.

That could include healthcare workers, teachers, and grocery store employees, among other occupations.

“Today’s action demonstrates that science and the currently available data continue to guide the FDA’s decision-making for COVID-19 vaccines during this pandemic,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement, adding that the authorization was amended “to allow for a booster dose in certain populations such as health care workers, teachers, and daycare staff, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons, among others.”

The FDA also authorized the boosters for those 18 to 64 who are at a higher risk of getting COVID-19 because of where they reside, such as prisons and other institutions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to issue more guidance on who should be prioritized to receive the booster shots. But similar to the initial vaccine rollout, it will be up to state and local governments to implement.

Unlike the initial vaccine rollout, the US is less likely to face a supply issue where those who are eligible have a difficult time getting a shot.

The US is still urging Americans to get their first vaccine dose. As of Wednesday, 75% of eligible Americans 12 years of age or older had received one vaccine dose according to the CDC, while 64% were fully vaccinated.

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FDA authorizes boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for older adults and others at high risk from COVID-19

pfizer vaccine distribution UK
A nurse prepares to inject staff with the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.

  • The FDA authorized boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for older adults and people at higher risk.
  • Booster shots are likely to be available in locations like pharmacies and clinics at no cost.
  • The US is still struggling to convince many people to get their first doses of coronavirus vaccines.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US coronavirus booster-shot campaign has cleared a crucial hurdle.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for older adults and others at high risk from the pandemic. Boosters can be given starting six months after the first two doses of the shot. The agency said that getting a third shot is safe and can help increase protection against the disease.

The FDA decision caps more than a month of messy debate over the US vaccination drive. In mid-August, a group of President Joe Biden’s top health officials issued an extraordinary joint statement saying that boosters were coming. The statement prompted controversy because it came before reviews by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and before much data on the safety or effectiveness of boosters was available.

The US has already greenlit an extra vaccine dose for people with compromised immune systems, and some countries have embarked on booster-shot campaigns focused on vulnerable individuals.

Under the FDA’s emergency-use authorization, four main groups of people are eligible for booster shots:

  • People 65 and older;
  • People 18 to 64 who are at high risk of a severe case of COVID-19 if they get sick;
  • People 18 to 64 who are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 at work, such as healthcare workers and teachers;
  • People 18 to 64 who are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 because of where they live, such as those in prisons and other institutions.

Protecting the most vulnerable amid the pandemic

The hope is that booster shots will help protect those most at risk as the pandemic continues to surge, fueled by the rise of the Delta variant. Delta is more contagious, and appears to be able to partially elude the protection offered by vaccines.

Still, the US is struggling to convince much of its population to get coronavirus vaccines at all. Just over 64% of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

“At this moment, it is clear that the unvaccinated are driving transmission in the United States,” Dr. Amanda Cohn from the CDC said during an FDA meeting on boosters shots on Friday. Cohn said that masks and social distancing are still crucial, because “vaccination will never be perfect” at preventing every case.

The CDC still needs to weigh in formally on who should be prioritized to receive booster doses. The agency’s vaccine advisory committee is set to discuss booster shots on Thursday.

Janet Woodcock
Interim FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

The Biden administration has said that once approved, booster shots will be widely available in locations like pharmacies and clinics. They’ll be offered to individuals for free.

Expanding the reach of boosters

The FDA decision is a setback for Pfizer, which had asked the agency to make boosters available to everyone over age 16, six months after their second dose.

It comes after a panel of doctors and other experts advising the FDA voted against the idea of making booster shots available that widely. The panel instead said that boosters should be given to people 65 and older, and to those most at risk of severe cases of COVID-19.

Experts on the panel said there wasn’t enough evidence showing the benefits of an extra vaccine dose for younger people. They also expressed concern that there wasn’t enough safety data for younger adults, highlighting the risk of myocarditis, or heart inflammation, that has been seen at higher-than-usual levels in teenagers and 20-somethings who have been vaccinated.

“The incremental benefit to the younger population really has not been demonstrated at all,” Dr. Michael Kurilla, an infectious disease expert from the National Institutes of Health, said during the meeting.

“I think we need to target the boosters right now specifically to the people who are likely to be at high risk, and it’s an older population.”

‘A good step to protect yourself’

Infectious-disease experts who aren’t on the FDA’s committee said the group made the right call to limit the initial rollout to more vulnerable people.

“If you fall into the age category, this is a good step to protect yourself,” said Gigi Gronvall, an immunologist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

The booster rollout shouldn’t distract from effort to get more unvaccinated people to get their initial shots, said Bernadette Boden-Albala, director of the University of California, Irvine’s public-health program.

“If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated,” Boden-Albala said. “If you are vaccinated, be vigilant. And if you’re vaccinated and eligible for the booster, get it.”

The FDA still has plenty of work ahead on coronavirus vaccines. The agency is reviewing an application from Moderna to give a third shot of its two-dose vaccine. Johnson & Johnson recently put out data showing that its vaccine is more effective after a second dose, and said it’d provided the information to the FDA.

The agency is also being pressed to make vaccines available to younger kids. Pfizer has said it plans to submit data from a study of kids ages 5 to 11 to FDA in early October, and the agency could reach a decision by the end of that month. The drugmaker then plans to submit data from kids between 6 months and 5 years old in November.

Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer head of vaccine research and development
Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer’s head of vaccine research and development

The case for boosters

To make the case for booster shots, Pfizer presented results from at least eight studies showing protection from the vaccine wanes over time and that a booster could help. The company also cited data from Israel that showed big benefits from boosters in older people. That data comes from an observational study and could be skewed by factors that researchers weren’t aware of or couldn’t account for.

The FDA’s own review of the evidence for extra shots avoided taking a firm stance on some of the largest questions surrounding boosters, and noted that Pfizer didn’t formally evaluate the efficacy of boosters.

In a statement on Friday, Pfizer said that it believes booster shots are “a critical tool in the ongoing effort to control the spread of this virus.”

“We continue to believe in the benefits of a booster dose for a broader population,” Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer’s head of vaccine research & development, said in the statement.

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Fauci said a COVID-19 vaccine will be available to young children in the fall

School children walk with masks and backpacks on.
In this Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021 file photo, Students, some wearing protective masks, arrive for the first day of school at Sessums Elementary School in Riverview, Fla.

  • Vaccines could be available for use in children under 12 in the fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
  • The Pfizer vaccine will likely become available for young children before the Moderna vaccine, he added.
  • Under an ideal timeline, children could receive the shot by the end of October.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday that a COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of 12 would be available in the fall.

“It will certainly be this fall,” said Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, during an appearance on ABC News’ “This Week.”

“When you talk about the rollout for vaccines again, there will be a little bit of a different in time frame, maybe a couple of weeks between Pfizer and Moderna and others,” he told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz.

“So, what we’re going to almost certainly see is that sometime in the next few weeks as we get into October, we’ll be able to see the vaccines for children get enough data to be presented for safety and immunogenicity, but when it gets to Moderna, it will probably be a few weeks beyond that, maybe the end of October, beginning to have November,” he added.

He said that the data would likely be available sometime in “mid to late fall” for US officials to make the decision on authorizing a vaccine in use for children aged 11 to five years old.

As Insider previously reported, both Pfizer and Moderna began enrolling children in their vaccine trials in March Moderna previously said it expected to have data about its vaccine’s efficacy in young children in late fall or early winter, while Pfizer planned to have the data ready by the end of September.

It will likely take the US Food and Drug Administration several weeks to review the data before making a final decision on providing the emergency use authorization to use the vaccines.

In a best-case scenario, children aged five to 11 could be eligible to receive the vaccine by the end of October, said former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who serves on Pfizer’s board, Insider’s Aria Bendix reported last week In the same best-case scenario, the vaccine could be authorized for use in children 6 months old to 5 years old by late November.

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Pfizer and Moderna have revealed the way they’re tracking how long vaccine protection lasts

A woman receives a COVID-19 booster shot Netanya, Israel, January 19, 2021.
A woman receives a COVID-19 booster shot in Netanya, Israel, on January 19, 2021.

A Friday meeting in Washington got a little messy: An expert panel said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shouldn’t green-light Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster shot for the general public – but not without some dissent.

Pfizer executive Dr. William Gruber argued that without booster shots the US could face a wave of infections among the vaccinated. But committee members questioned whether it was too soon to tell if boosters offer any more protection to healthy Americans who’ve already received two doses. Members voted 16 to 3 against recommending Pfizer boosters for people ages 16 and up – but unanimously recommended the shots for adults ages 65 and up or those at high risk of severe disease.

Their debate hinged on a key question: When do the first two shots stop offering enough protection?

This week, Pfizer published its most robust data yet about how long its vaccine protection lasts, with results from at least eight studies. The data showed that the vaccine’s effectiveness fell significantly over time – to 47% efficacy after five months, down from 88% in the month following dose two.

Though Friday’s meeting didn’t evaluate Moderna’s booster, the company released data in a press release on Wednesday that also makes a case for boosters.

Both datasets give a look under the hood at how each company is measuring the duration of vaccine protection. Pfizer and Moderna have been tracking participants from their clinical trials, who are divided into two groups: Those who got vaccines as part of the trials (which began in 2020) and those who got a placebo, then the real vaccine once it was authorized.

Pfizer and Moderna each compared the incidences of breakthrough infections between the two groups. Pfizer’s results showed that the risk of breakthrough infections was 26% lower for trial participants who were fully vaccinated roughly five months prior, compared to those who had gotten their second shot approximately 10 months earlier.

Moderna, similarly, said breakthrough infections were more common among trial participants who got vaccinated between July and October 2020 than among those vaccinated between December and March. The company identified 162 breakthrough infections among those who were fully vaccinated 13 months prior, compared to 88 breakthrough infections among those who had gotten their second shot eight months before.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO, cited those numbers as support for booster shots.

Vaccine protection seems to wane over time

child Pfizer vaccine
A 12-year-old receives their first Pfizer vaccine dose at a Los Angeles County mobile vaccination clinic on May 14, 2021.

Several recent studies have similarly found that Pfizer’s vaccine effectiveness diminishes over time.

The vaccine’s protection against infection fell from 88% in the month following the second dose to 47% five months after that second shot, according to a study from Kaiser Permanente. And real-world data from Israel suggests that the risk of breakthrough infections is significantly higher for people who were vaccinated with Pfizer earlier in the pandemic than for those who received vaccines later.

The Delta variant may pose a particular challenge. Pfizer’s protection against breakthrough infections fell to 53% four months after it was administered, based on data collected from June to July, when Delta was becoming more prevalent in the US. The company thinks these results are due to waning protection, though – not the variant’s ability to evade vaccines.

Moderna’s data showed a smaller dropoff in efficacy against Delta infections. Another Kaiser Permanente study that’s still awaiting peer review found that Moderna’s vaccine was 87% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections after three months – down from 94% prior to the rise of Delta.

While the Pfizer vaccine remains highly effective against hospitalization and death from COVID-19, a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that Moderna may offer better protection against hospitalization. Being fully vaccinated with Moderna lowered recipients’ risk of hospitalization by 93% from March to August, according to the report, compared to an 88% reduced risk of hospitalization among Pfizer recipients.

The report’s findings may “guide individual choices and policy recommendations regarding vaccine boosters,” the CDC authors wrote.

Is it time for boosters yet?

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President Joe Biden wants to roll out COVID-19 booster shots to most Americans on September 20.

Before the FDA advisory panel made its decision on Friday, the Biden administration had already announced a booster shot campaign for those who’d gotten Pfizer or Moderna. The administration pinpointed September 20 as the date on which most Americans would be eligible for third shots. (The FDA has already authorized boosters for immunocompromised people.)

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, questioned whether the White House got ahead of itself.

“This is the sort of internal, behind-closed-doors argument – inside baseball – that goes on in science being translated into public policy all the time,” Schaffner said. “The reason it’s out in the open is because the White House made that pronouncement.”

Protection wanes over times for all vaccinations, he said, and COVID-19 shots were not designed to prevent mild infections, but rather to prevent hospitalization and death – which they do very well after six or eight months.

“Will we need a booster someday?” Schaffner asked. “Sure. Do we need it today? No!”

Schaffner doesn’t begrudge the scientists at Pfizer and Moderna for pushing boosters, though.

“I don’t think this comes out of marketing division of the company,” he said. “I think the scientists really believe it.”

But he noted that many other concerns are at play. For one, two departing FDA regulators, as well as the World Health Organization, have cautioned against offering third shots to the general population while much of the world remains unvaccinated, and without compelling evidence showing the need for extra shots.

Schaffner doesn’t think that global equity argument holds up. He noted that regulatory and distribution challenges would make it difficult for the US’s vaccine surplus to go directly to poorer countries with low vaccine access.

“It’s a false notion that if you don’t give the boosters, those doses will be delivered to Indonesia,” he said, adding, “The problem is that we haven’t gotten a first dose into people. That’s where we ought to put our energy, time, and resources.”

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Moderna’s vaccine offers better protection against COVID-19 hospitalization than Pfizer or J&J, new CDC study finds

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Olivia Parsons, 22, a neuroscience major at the University of Colorado Boulder, left, gets her first dose of the Moderna vaccine from Dr. Laird Wolfe.

  • Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine seems to protect better against hospitalization than other US-authorized shots.
  • Moderna’s shot lowered the risk of hospitalization by 93%, a new CDC report found.
  • Pfizer’s shot lowered that risk by 88%, whereas Johnson & Johnson’s shot lowered it by 71%.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Until recently, Moderna and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines were seen as comparable shots, offering similar protection against disease and death.

But a new report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that Moderna’s vaccine does a better job of preventing COVID-19 hospitalizations than other vaccines authorized in the US. Both Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines, as well as one from Johnson & Johnson, offer substantially better protection than remaining unvaccinated, the report shows.

Moderna’s two-dose shot lowered the risk of hospitalization by 93% from March to August, the report found. Meanwhile, Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine lowered the hospitalization risk by 88% over the same time period.

The report pooled data from 21 hospital across 18 US states. It looked at about 1,300 fully vaccinated people and compared them to about 2,300 people who hadn’t received shots. Of the vaccinated people, 476 got Moderna shots, 738 got Pfizer’s, and 113 received J&J.

The Delta variant became dominant in the US in July, so the data may include people who got infected with Delta, Alpha, or other common strains over the last six months. (The report didn’t screen for individual variants.)

The protection from Pfizer’s shot declines over time

The difference in vaccine effectiveness appears to be driven by the fact that Pfizer’s protection declined over time, whereas Moderna’s did not, the CDC authors wrote. Pfizer’s shot lowered the risk of hospitalization by 91% in the first four months after it was administered. Protection went down to 77% after four months.

Both Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccine soffer better protection than J&J’s single-dose shot, though. That vaccine lowered the risk of hospitalization by 71% over the time period of March to August, the report found. All three vaccines still offer strong protection against severe disease and death.

The findings may “guide individual choices and policy recommendations regarding vaccine boosters,” the CDC authors wrote. Indeed, some public-health experts have suggested that boosters may not be necessary for those who received Moderna’s shot.

“The early evidence looks like persistence is better with Moderna, and that’s why the [Biden] administration and the FDA have been suggesting that it’s really more specific to people who got Pfizer who may need boosting,” Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, recently told Insider.

A Food and Drug Administration external advisory panel is meeting today to decide whether to recommend a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine.

Moderna’s vaccine also seems to hold up better against Delta infections

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A person receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) in Boston, Massachusetts on December 24, 2020.

The CDC report gives a few reasons for why Moderna’s vaccine seems to offer more lasting protection against hospitalization. For one, the vaccine contains a higher dose of mRNA, which may explain why Moderna’s shot produced higher antibody levels than Pfizer’s vaccine two to six weeks after it was administered.

Moderna’s doses are also given four weeks apart, which may allow more time for antibodies to build. Pfizer’s doses are given three weeks apart.

A recent UK study, which is still awaiting peer review, found that Pfizer’s vaccine may have performed better with a longer dosing interval: The shot seemed to produce more antibodies when doses were administered six to 14 weeks apart as opposed to three to four weeks apart.

Other studies have also suggested that Moderna’s vaccine may do a better job of preventing infections in the face of the Delta variant.

An August study from the Mayo Clinic that hasn’t been peer reviewed found that Moderna’s vaccine lowered the risk of a coronavirus infection by 86% in Minnesota from January to July. In July, when the Delta variant accounted for more than 70% of Minnesota’s COVID-19 cases, that protection went down to 76% – a small decrease compared to Pfizer’s. Pfizer’s shot lowered the risk of a coronavirus infection by 76% from January to July. In July, that protection went down to 42%.

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