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With the highly transmissible Delta variant circulating rapidly across the globe, there has been a growing concern that current two-dose Covid-19 vaccine may not be able to protect against it. The question is - Will vaccinated people need booster shots to target this variant?
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a joint statement on whether a booster might be necessary. People in America who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time, it said.
According to the health agencies, the vaccines that are widely available in the US for those aged 12 and up are highly effective against Covid-19 "People who are fully vaccinated are protected from severe disease and death, including from the variants currently circulating in the country such as Delta," they said.
However, the CDC and FDA cautioned that people who are not vaccinated remain at risk. "Virtually all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are among those who are unvaccinated," the joint statement noted, while encouraging Americans who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves and their community.
Further, the statement mentioned that the FDA, CDC, and NIH are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary. "We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed," it said.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is also confident for now that the established regimen was sufficient to protect against the Covid variants. It said that it was too early to determine whether a third dose would be called for.
Meanwhile, Pfizer and partner BioNTech are planning to ask U.S. and European regulators to authorize a booster dose of their COVID-19 vaccine (BNT162b2), which they say "may be beneficial to maintain the highest levels of protection."
The believe that it is likely, based on evidence, that a third dose may be needed within six to 12 months after full vaccination. "While protection against severe disease remained high across the full six months, a decline in efficacy against symptomatic disease over time and the continued emergence of variants are expected. Based on the totality of the data they have to date, Pfizer and BioNTech believe that a third dose may be beneficial to maintain the highest levels of protection," CBS News quoted Pfizer as saying.
Pfizer recently announced that its COVID vaccine booster shot could further protect individuals from all currently known COVID-19 variants including the Delta variant. It said that the booster shot has shown encouraging results in a small number of participants in clinical trial.
Citing trial data, Pfizer said that when given six months after the second dose, its booster has a "consistent tolerability profile" and neutralizes an immune response. Pfizer and BioNTech plan to share their booster data with the FDA in August and file for emergency use authorization shortly thereafter.
Pfizer also announced that it is developing an updated Pfizer-BioNtech COVID vaccine to specifically target the Delta variant and clinical studies are expected to begin in August, pending approval.
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