Are 3rd COVID shots necessary? Here's what Bay Area experts say as Pfizer seeks approval

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Friday, July 9, 2021
Are 3rd COVID shots necessary? Here's what experts say
On Thursday, Pfizer said it's time for a COVID vaccine booster. But, the FDA and CDC say, not so fast.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- On Thursday, Pfizer said it's time for a COVID vaccine booster. But, the FDA and CDC said not so fast.

One month after new data demonstrated Pfizer's two-dose COVID vaccine works well against the Delta variant, the drug maker made a surprise announcement that it would be seeking FDA authorization for a third booster shot.

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"It's hard for me to understand it," said UCSF infectious disease doctor, Monica Gandhi, who questions Pfizer's rational that new Israeli data suggests immunity declines six months post vaccination.

"My concern is their motive is financial. The government is very unlikely to purchase third doses for the U.S. population like they did for the first and second because we have such good data now that they work against the Delta, and so people and insurance companies will purchase them and they will make money out of it," suggested Gandhi.

In a statement, Pfizer said they want to "stay ahead of the virus" and that a third dose updated for the Delta variant, given 6 to 12 months after the second dose, will preserve the highest levels of protection.

Hours after the announcement, the FDA and CDC issued a joint statement saying Americans do not need a booster shot yet.

"I got my booster four months ago," said Seattle area resident, Neal Browning.

Browning is a volunteer for Moderna's phase one and booster trials. He feels great and supports the vaccines, but thinks the focus should be on getting first and second doses out globally, instead of worrying about a third shot. "If we don't get everybody, including those most vulnerable in large and emerging economies vaccinated, there's just a chance for more variants to come out."

RELATED: Why the US isn't following the World Health Organization's mask guidance

"Everybody that I have talked to at the local level, at the national level, is in agreement that we don't need a booster right now," said Stanford's Dr. Yavonne Maldonado, who works with Pfizer on vaccine trials. She says 99% of the current COVID cases in the U.S. are in unvaccinated people and that vaccine breakthrough cases are too rare to justify a booster. "We're not there yet."

Stanford's Dr. Yvonne Maldonado works with Pfizer on vaccine trials and says it's possible Pfizer is trying to have a booster ready in the event it's more needed in the future. "It sounds like Pfizer and the FDA need to have a good heart to heart talk first and generally that's what works best and they know that. I'm surprised."

It's unclear if Pfizer will still file for booster authorization with the FDA this month.

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