Pfizer announced Thursday the company is launching a new study of its COVID-19 vaccine. They’re going back to 144 phase 1 clinical trial participants with a third dose – a booster shot. It comes a day after Moderna also announced a third-shot study.
“These companies are doing their due diligence to stay on track of this virus as it’s mutating to be sure that they’re addressing it appropriately,” said Karl Minges, University of New Haven’s director of the Master of Public Health program. He said the study would show if the booster could help in two ways.
“One would be to allow the vaccine to increase and improve its efficacy, and the second thing would be to address any new variants that might be exposed as a result of changes in how the virus mutates,” said Minges.
In a statement, the company CEO said there’s no concern the variants are resistant to current vaccines.
“While we have not seen any evidence that the circulating variants result in a loss of protection provided by our vaccine, we are taking multiple steps to act decisively and be ready in case a strain becomes resistant to the protection afforded by the vaccine. This booster study is critical to understanding the safety of a third dose and immunity against circulating strains,” said Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer.
In an exclusive interview with Lester Holt airing Thursday night on NBC Nightly News, Bourla said if a third shot is recommended, they would become similar to other vaccines that require booster shots.
“Every year, you need to go to get your flu vaccine. So, it's going to be the same with COVID. In a year, you will have to go and get your annual shot for COVID to be protected,” said Bourla. “And that could be an annual booster either with the same vaccine or if there is a change in the variant with an adapted to the new variant vaccine.”
The company is also in discussions for a study that will look at a revised version of the vaccine against the strain originally identified in South Africa. The results could help determine how quickly the vaccines can be updated for mutations.