COVID booster shots are music to the ears of investors, but scientists warn trying to outsmart the virus with booster shots could create new variants, each more virulent and transmissible than the one before.
Vaccine makers are telling investors and the media that COVID booster shots are already in the works. In some cases, companies say the boosters may be needed because the vaccine’s effectiveness may run out. In other instances, they suggest booster shots will be needed to combat new COVID variants.
Annual COVID booster shots are music to the ears of investors. But some independent scientists warn that trying to outsmart the virus with booster shots designed to address the next variant could backfire, creating an endless wave of new variants, each more virulent and transmissible than the one before.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Thursday a third dose of the company’s COVID vaccine was “likely” to be needed within a year of the initial two-dose inoculation — followed by annual vaccinations.
Bourla said that “a likely scenario” is “a third dose somewhere between six and 12 months, and from there it would be an annual re-vaccination.”
“It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus,” Bourla said during an interview with CNBC. Booster shots will be an important tool in battling more contagious variants, he added.
Moderna’s chief commercial officer, Corinne M. Le Goff, said during a call with investors last week that Americans could start getting booster shots of its vaccine later this year to protect against COVID variants.
“It is likely that the countries that have already achieved high vaccine coverage are going to be ready to shift their focus to boosters in 2022, and possibly even starting at the end of this year,” Le Goff said.
Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has said its single-shot vaccine will probably need to be given annually.
The U.S. is also preparing for the possibility that a booster shot will be needed between nine to 12 months after people are initially vaccinated against COVID, a White House official said Thursday.
While the duration of immunity after vaccination is being studied, booster vaccines could be needed, David Kessler, chief science officer for President Biden’s COVID-19 response task force told a congressional committee meeting.
Even if that protection lasts longer than six months, experts have said rapidly spreading COVID variants may emerge and could lead to the need for regular booster shots similar to annual flu shots.
Boosters could enable new, more infectious variants — and a never-ending market for vaccines
According to Rob Verkerk Ph.D., founder, scientific and executive director of Alliance for Natural Health International, variants can become more virulent and transmissible, while also including immune (or vaccine) escape mutations if we continue on the vaccine treadmill — trying to develop new vaccines that outsmart the virus.
Verkerk said “if we put all our eggs” in the basket of vaccines that target the very part of the virus that is most subject to mutation, we place a selection pressure on the virus that favors the development of immune escape variants.