The vaccination program for COVID-19 in the United States continues and, as of April 19, all 50 states opened eligibility to all adults. Globally to date, more than 966 million doses have been administered across 172 countries. In the United States alone, 219 million vaccinations have been given, according to data collected by Bloomberg.
While the country is on the cusp of seeing some benefits from herd immunity, to continue protection, a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will likely be needed to combat COVID-19 variants. Here’s what we know about the third dose, when it will be given, and how the vaccine will likely be given out annually going forward.
We’ll Likely Need A Third Dose — Soon
According to CNBC, Dr. Ozlem Tureci, the Chief medical officer of BioNTech, the company that helped develop the Pfizer vaccine, said that people will likely need a third shot of the two-dose vaccination in order to keep immunity within some time of the second dose and that after that point, booster shots will be spread out more over time.
According to Dr. Tureci, she’s expecting people will need to get vaccinated against the coronavirus annually because the immunity developed from the vaccine will decrease over time. And this was expected when the vaccination was developed.
Her sentiments echo issues raised by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who previously mentioned an additional vaccination may be necessary. Moderna, as well, has already been conducting research into COVID-19 variants and boosters that could be given out annually or periodically.
When the Third Dose Will Be Given
The need for a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna isn’t a surprise to the medical community. Since the vaccines were being developed, researchers knew boosters would be integral to fighting variants, much like the flu vaccine is needed yearly.
According to Bourla, he said it’s likely people will need to receive their booster shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination somewhere around the 12-month mark after receiving their second dose. On the calendar, this means a third vaccine may be available in late 2021 or early 2022. Moderna hasn’t given a timeline as to when they will administer boosters or a third dose, but they’re doing the research.
According to CNBC, Pfizer said their vaccine was “more than 91% effective at protecting against the virus and more than 95% effective against severe disease up to six months after the second dose.” Moderna vaccine was also shown to have similar results, which also suggest that immunity will last longer than six months. But it’s not exactly clear, yet, how long after the six-month mark protection will last, though it’s certain it will drop off eventually.
Could The COVID-19 Vaccine Become A Yearly Thing?
Bourla also mentioned it’s likely possible a yearly vaccine against COVID-19 is going to be necessary in order to stay protected from the virus mutations that naturally occur and as the virus becomes endemic to the planet. Just as we need to get a yearly flu booster shot, researchers anticipate this will become a reality for the COVID-19 strain, too.
Over the past year, we’ve seen many different variants of the COVID-19 virus, which is pretty typical for coronavirus strains. Researchers anticipate these mutations in the virus to continue, as the annual flu does, but say that the length of time it takes for a mutation to occur should decrease over time as more herd immunity develops.
While it would be lovely if we could vaccinate against the COVID-19 virus and never have to think about it again, that’s not reality. Experts suggest we all hang on to those vaccination cards because we’ll likely have to get them stamped several more times.