Pfizer plans on asking the Food and Drug Administration next month for emergency authorization of a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, the company told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Early data from its booster study suggests that after a third shot, antibody levels jump five- to 10-fold, compared to the second dose given months earlier, Pfizer's Dr. Mikael Dolsten said. He added that data from Britain and Israel shows the vaccine "neutralizes" the highly contagious Delta variant "very well." The Delta variant now accounts for more than 50 percent of all new infections in the United States.
Dr. William Schaffner, a vaccine expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told AP that even if the authorization is granted by the FDA, public health officials will still have to weigh whether booster shots are necessary, since millions of Americans have protection due to their first two doses. The COVID-19 vaccines "were designed to keep us out of the hospital," he said, and it would be "a huge effort" to get people their third dose "while we are at the moment striving to get people the first dose." Currently, 48 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.