The CDC’s advisory committee said there isn’t enough evidence to recommend booster shots as Pfizer reassures investors boosters will be needed long after the pandemic ends in an effort to secure its multi-billion-dollar revenue stream.
As Pfizer makes plans to keep its billion dollar revenue stream going — by assuring investors yearly COVID booster doses will be needed long after the pandemic ends — a group of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there isn’t enough data to recommend COVID booster shots to the general population.
The COVID-19 working group of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) said June 23, they would only recommend booster shots if there’s a demonstrated decline in efficacy –– not just a waning antibody response.
Boosters may also be recommended if there’s a variant that’s able to evade the vaccines, according to slides presented by Sara Oliver, M.D., a medical epidemiologist with CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Currently, there’s no evidence to suggest a booster is needed, the experts said. Boosters may be appropriate for special risk groups in the future, including elderly people and transplant recipients. To be sure, the nation’s top public health officials said they would continue to monitor the situation.
“I would have to agree with the interpretation of the working group in the sense that there’s no data to support recommendations to support boosters at this time,” said Dr. Sharon Frey, member of the ACIP and clinical director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Saint Louis University Medical School. “There’s no evidence against declining protection at this time.”
Dr. Grace Lee, chair of the ACIP safety panel and professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, said she would like to see more evidence of breakthrough cases before recommending a booster shot.
“I would want greater certainty on the safety data if we’re talking about boosting before it’s clear what the risk data will look like,” Lee said. “If we’re seeing severe breakthrough cases then I think the decision-making moves forward even if there’s uncertainty with the safety data.”
CDC expert recommendations threaten Pfizer profits
Booster shots for COVID are expected to serve as a key revenue driver in the years to come for Pfizer and Moderna. Pfizer executives have assured investorsthe company sees the vaccine market evolving as the pandemic wanes, and will likely be able to charge more per dose than it was getting under pandemic supply deals.
Pfizer has been working on two different booster strategies it anticipates could carry sales beyond the immediate pandemic need — a third 30 mg dose of its current vaccines and an updated vaccine that targets the South African variant, Fierce Pharma reported.
No one is completely sure when a booster will be needed, but it’s possible that some of those who were vaccinated early on may need an extra jab as early as September, or roughly 8 to 12 months after their initial regimen, CEO Albert Bourla told Axios in May.
Pfizer has argued that boosters would be required “as antibody blood concentration wanes to ensure the broad population can’t carry the virus and thus quench the epidemic faster,” the Bernstein analysts, led by Ronny Gal, wrote to clients. That’s not the industry’s standard, and it’s also not what the CDC’s ACIP suggested at its meeting June 23, analysts wrote.